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24 Aug, 2021 11:11

US president Biden kneels in White House photos again with basketball team – but Black Votes Matter boss still isn’t happy (VIDEO)

US president Biden kneels in White House photos again with basketball team – but Black Votes Matter boss still isn’t happy (VIDEO)

Joe Biden has taken a knee again in a ceremony for a women's basketball team at the White House, with a leading campaigner on voting reforms among viewers questioning the value of the contentious gesture by the president.

Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) champions the Seattle Storm were at the White House for a celebration of their triumph, with Biden publicly praising them for "changing lives" through "encouraging people to get vaccinated or speaking out for racial justice".

On the eve of a vote on an equality-based bill about voting regulations in the US, Biden then held a team shirt aloft while kneeling in front of the squad, clearly demonstrating his support for the Black Lives Matter campaign in a photoshoot held in the East Room of the presidential epicenter.

Biden has often seized upon the chance to kneel for picture opportunities, including during the visits of South Korean President Moon Jae-in May and World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, which some onlookers suggested had been an awkward moment that had even caught attending Vice-President Kamala Harris by surprise.

The head of state also knelt before Opal Lee, the 94-year-old who he called the "grandmother of the movement" to make slavery abolition anniversary Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The decision by Biden to make a gesture which is despised by his predecessor, Donald Trump, has again proved divisive.

Some have praised the 78-year-old for his "humility", calling the snapshot "one for the history books" and claiming that sports teams who had clashed with Trump, such as the US Women's National Team in football, will now feel comfortable to visit the White House.

Others accused Biden of showing weakness in pandering to a movement that they feel is politically-motivated, questioned whether the US government has its priorities right amid the crisis in Afghanistan and asked why the president is allowed to perform an act that many believe looks incongruous.

LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter campaign which is calling for the bill to pass, said the gesture was welcome but warned that it represented only "symbolic progress" and had strong words for Biden.

"I've not heard him say [he supports us], unequivocally, just like he did when he ran for office, when he was very clear about what he would do and not do," she told The Grio.

"What we've seen, even in the Afghanistan pull-out of the troops, [is that] he's been very clear in demonstrating that he's willing to do the things that he wants to do – even if it's not popular... he's willing to take the political fall-out.

"Where is that kind of passion and energy and commitment to voting rights?"

Brown is unimpressed by an interview in which Biden showed apparent willingness to persuade Republicans, who are anticipated to predominantly oppose the bill, to back the legislation.

"Part of what he said was that he was willing to support the voting rights, but he wanted to make sure that he actually had Republican buy-in.

"In many ways, that's really disrespectful to the black and brown voters that supported him – at the end of the day, our voting rights are not up for agreement around whether the white Republicans support it."

The House and Senate are expected to pass the bill, which includes measures aimed at better enabling racial minorities to elect their chosen candidates and rules stipulating that majority-minority districts must be formed when minority voters can be united in a compact district.

The March on Washington, which commemorates the event of the same name held to advocate for the civil and economic rights of African Americans, is also due to take place on Saturday.

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