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6 Jun, 2021 14:04

‘Fans are sick of being preached to’: Politicians slam kneeling England footballers, plan boycott over ‘ridiculous empty gesture’

‘Fans are sick of being preached to’: Politicians slam kneeling England footballers, plan boycott over ‘ridiculous empty gesture’

England boss Gareth Southgate has earned a rapid backlash from two Conservative politicians after insisting his team will take the knee for Black Lives Matter (BLM) – but an opposition MP is ready to "bring on" the "culture war".

UK Member of Parliament and lifelong England fan Lee Anderson has revealed that he is taking the drastic action of shunning the Three Lions' matches at Euro 2020, responding with revulsion after Southgate pledged that his team would be spurred on to continue to make the gesture by crowd booing when they played Austria in Middlesbrough on Wednesday.

The act of kneeling before matches has become an incendiary topic in sport and politics in England, and the row over its value has burst back into focus following the incident before the team's first match in front of fans since the pandemic began, which led to Southgate promising that his "very disappointed" group would kneel throughout the tournament which begins on Saturday.

“For the first time in my life, I will not be watching my beloved England team whilst they are supporting a political movement whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life," said Ashfield, who defected from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in 2018 before being elected as part of prime minister Boris Johnson's Tory party the following year.

"The FA and the England football team have made a big mistake in supporting the taking of the knee before football matches ahead of the European Championships.

"The FA, Premier League and footballers now run the risk of becoming like the Labour Party and that is having nothing in common with their traditional supporters.

"All forms of racism are vile and should be stamped out – but this is not the way."

Anderson's words had echoes of the debate that flared in December, when figures on both sides – including players and politicians – exchanged accusations of a lack of understanding after fans at London club Millwall were heard booing during the taking of the knee.

“I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with,” Southgate said earlier this week.

“That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other.”

Also on rt.com ‘We are totally united on it’: England boss Southgate says his side are ‘prepared to ignore’ any boos to take knee at Euro 2020

Former England captain Gary Lineker said the booing fans were "part of the reason" why players made the gesture.

One of Anderson's neighboring Tory MPs in the county of Nottinghamshire, Brendan Clarke-Smith, echoed his colleague's views and called Southgate's remarks “an insult to fans’ intelligence”.

“Fans understand perfectly well – they are just sick and tired of being preached and spoken down to," said Clarke-Smith.

"They are there to watch a football match, not to be lectured on morality. Find something we can all support and ditch this ridiculous empty gesture.

"Now we see this sort of politicisation of our game spreading. First we saw Leicester’s Hamza Choudhary with a Palestinian flag at the FA Cup Final and then two Manchester United players parading around the pitch with one, presumably to celebrate winning nothing again this season.

"The fact they had the flag upside down and probably couldn’t find the place on a map was probably lost on them.

Also on rt.com Leicester duo salute FA Cup win with Palestinian flag as teammate accused of ‘disrespecting’ Chelsea in celebrations (VIDEO)

"Last week, Chelsea won the Champions League. Imagine the reaction if Roman Abramovich had paraded around with an Israeli flag after the match – a country he is actually a citizen of."

Labour MP John McDonnell said the “sickening” booing "was racism and should be called out."

“If supporting BLM is part of the culture war, then bring it on because you have to stand up against this new wave of racism," the former shadow chancellor wrote on Twitter.

Anderson vigorously disagreed. "Let me tell you, John, that I think the vast majority of these fans booing... are not racist," he said.

"They are more likely to be decent working class folk who love their football and do not share the Marxist views of BLM.

"I wager the majority of them are former Labour voters who now see through you. Good luck winning them back."

Also on rt.com Man Utd star Pogba carries Palestinian flag around Old Trafford as World Cup winner is latest footballer to show support (VIDEO)

A popular author who describes themselves as offering "truth" in a "hypernormalized and apathetic post-truth UK" was scathing of Anderson, calling him a "pound-shop Enoch Powell pickled onion Monster Munch idiot".

"What Lee Anderson represents is a class of people who think more than what they actually know," they told their audience of more than 28,000.

"He’s probably a fascist and doesn’t know that he might be one, and one of these individuals that extols the virtues of free speech and democracy and yet, at any given opportunity, will deny objective discussion when ultimately you tell him something that he doesn’t want to hear – and thus he’d much rather it didn’t exist altogether.

"Is there a place in sport – at such a high level – for politics and gestures such as taking the knee? Of course, because much in the same way celebrities involve themselves in charity, they use their profile to raise awareness of subjects that, I gather for people like Lee Anderson, are rightly uncomfortable because it challenges their deeper and entrenched insecurities, and highlights problems that people like Lee Anderson would much rather pretend didn’t exist.

"Or alternatively, [they] make these issues ‘the problem’ as part of some made-up culture war rather than symptomatic of a wider social ill: in this case, racial inequality and the BLM movement, and its positive, well-meaning and mostly peaceful message.

"If Lee Anderson feels somehow uncomfortable about England players ‘taking the knee’ to highlight racial inequality and as an act of solidarity with many of its young, black footballers who have experienced the level of racism and systemic inequality that Lee Anderson would much rather ignore, it says far more about Lee Anderson than it does about the England football team."

England will take the knee when they play in Middlesbrough again on Sunday evening, facing Romania in their final friendly ahead of the start of their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia at Wembley next Sunday.

The visiting players have been "absolutely happy" to agree to join them, according to Sky Sports News, whose commentator for the match, Martin Tyler, said it would be the first time Romania's team will carry out the gesture.

"Vlad Chiriches is their captain, who was at Tottenham with [England skipper] Karry Kane – so I guess there's a bit of a bond there," said the broadcaster.

"We're glad for clarification because we know why we're talking about it, really: there was some booing here [before the Austria match] which was drowned out, in the end, by applause – we must stress that.

"If Romania didn't take the knee and there was an adverse reaction to that, then perhaps it would be hard to work out what was going on.

"I'm pleased on all counts because I believe it's a very important gesture. I certainly believe it should be carried on.

"The players, having had food for thought on it, I am sure have made the right decision.

"It's an even more important fight than the European Championships – I think we all realize that. We're playing our part and they're playing their part and it must carry on until the race is run."

Also on rt.com Football boo boys ‘don’t understand’ the message behind taking a knee, claims England boss Southgate