Tak­ing the knee has lost its im­pact, says Fer­di­nand

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Foot­ball By Ben Rumsby

League clubs had no plans last night to stop tak­ing a knee, de­spite Les Fer­di­nand com­par­ing the ges­ture to “a fancy hash­tag or a nice pin badge” in an an­gry de­fence of Queens Park Rangers’ re­fusal to con­tinue per­form­ing it.

QPR’s di­rec­tor of foot­ball, one of the most se­nior black fig­ures in the English game, spoke out fol­low­ing crit­i­cism of the Cham­pi­onship club’s shun­ning of some­thing adopted by sport this year to show sol­i­dar­ity with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

Pre­mier League teams have taken a knee in ev­ery match since foot­ball re­sumed fol­low­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, but English Foot­ball League sides are split over whether to do so and al­most half did not per­form the ges­ture dur­ing games played be­tween Fri­day and Sun­day.

QPR were among them af­ter de­cid­ing it had failed to lead to mean­ing­ful change.

“Tak­ing the knee was very pow­er­ful, but we feel that im­pact has now been di­luted,” Fer­di­nand said. “In the same way ‘Clap For Car­ers’ was very emo­tional for us all, it got to a stage where it had run its nat­u­ral course and the de­ci­sion was rightly made to stop it.

“Does that mean we, as a na­tion, don’t care or ap­pre­ci­ate our NHS work­ers? Of course it doesn’t.

“No one is more pas­sion­ate than me about this topic. I have spo­ken on the mat­ter through­out my foot­balling life. I work for one of the most di­verse foot­ball clubs in this coun­try. A lot of peo­ple are be­ing fooled out there.

“Re­cently, I took the de­ci­sion not to do any more in­ter­views on racism in foot­ball be­cause the de­bate was go­ing around in cir­cles. Peo­ple want

a nice sound­bite when some­thing hap­pens, but how many of the me­dia who have crit­i­cised QPR over the past 48 hours gen­uinely want change?

“The tak­ing of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR’, but lit­tle more than that. The mes­sage has been lost. It is now not dis­sim­i­lar to a fancy hash­tag or a nice pin badge.

“What are our plans with this? Will peo­ple be happy for play­ers to take the knee for the next 10 years but see no ac­tual progress made? Tak­ing the knee will not bring about change in the game – ac­tions will.

“Our un­der-18s were forced to aban­don a game in Au­gust 2019 against AD Nervion FC due to racist abuse. More than 12 months on, Uefa re­fused to deal with the sit­u­a­tion and the Span­ish FA did noth­ing.

“What me­dia cov­er­age has been given to that? Not nearly as much as what has been granted to QPR not tak­ing a knee. Don’t judge us. Sim­ple re­search and ev­i­dence will show you we are do­ing more than most. If you want change, judge your­selves.”

Lee Hoos, QPR’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, added: “To be blunt, any­one who thinks our play­ers con­done racism be­cause they didn’t take a knee re­ally doesn’t get it. Any­one who re­sponds to Black Lives Mat­ter by say­ing all lives mat­ter re­ally doesn’t get it. Any­one who thinks just tak­ing a knee is suf­fi­cient in fight­ing so­cial in­jus­tice re­ally doesn’t get it.

“Peo­ple need to do some­thing more than sim­ple ges­tures.” Pre­mier League clubs told The

Daily Tele­graph yes­ter­day their play­ers would con­tinue to take the knee be­fore matches, some­thing agreed in a meet­ing of team cap­tains be­fore the start of the sea­son.

The EFL said it was for in­di­vid­ual clubs and their play­ers whether they took the knee, a pol­icy that has come un­der fire from teams who are de­mand­ing it takes more of a lead.

San­jay Bhan­dari, chair at Kick It Out, said: “We know racial in­jus­tice and other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion did not end when the last sea­son ended. We en­cour­age the play­ers to con­tinue to protest in what­ever form they feel com­fort­able.”

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