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Men’s Football Les Ferdinand: Kneeling ‘message has been lost’

LES FERDINAND has said that footballers taking a knee before a game has been reduced to nothing more than “a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge” and that the “message has been lost.”

QPR’s director of football was defending his side’s decision to not kneel prior to Friday night’s game against Coventry.

It was the first televised game in which the gesture did not take place, after football introduced it during games played behind closed doors in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kneeling in sport to highlight racial inequality was started in 2016 when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt before the United States national anthem to protest against the unlawful killings of black people at the hands of the police.

The killing of George Floyd in May, a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked mass protests worldwide, including the Premier League.

QPR said in a statement yesterday that the decision had been made jointly with Coventry and the match referee ahead of the game, and was not done “to suggest a lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.”

There were many other games across the divisions over the weekend where players did not make the gesture.

Director of football Ferdinand said: “Taking the knee was very powerful, but we feel that impact has now been diluted.

“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?”

Former England forward Ferdinand also had spells at Newcastle, Tottenham, West Ham and Leicester before moving into coaching and then football administration with the Hoops.

Ferdinand maintains more must be done in the fight against racism and inequality than simply offer “a nice soundbite when something happens.”

He highlighted the lack of resolution to a complaint made by QPR following the abandonment of a friendly between the club’s under-18s team and Spanish side AD Nervion in August 2019.

“The taking of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR,’ but little more than that,” Ferdinand said.

“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.

“Those media that have been quick to question us should be looking more inwardly. 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.”

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