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Men’s football Stand up to Racism slam far-right protests

A STATEMENT signed by former footballers, MPs and union general secretary’s condemned the planned far-right protest that took place prior to England’s win today at Wembley Stadium.

A minority of England fans gathered outside the stadium before kick-off with flags that read “Don’t kneel for Marxism,” as a woman told others to “boo like crazy” when players knelt to raise awareness of ongoing racial inequality in Britain.

There were a smattering of boos as players made the anti-racism gesture, though they were drowned out by cheers and applause.

The statement called on supporters to get behind the team and in the letter seen by the Star, Stand up to Racism co-convener Sabby Dhalu said: “Boris Johnson must robustly condemn any booing of England players taking the knee. It is a straightforward anti-racist gesture and must be 100 per cent supported by everyone. 

“We condemn any far-right, anti-take-the-knee protests at Wembley. We were delighted when Wales and Switzerland fans supported their teams taking the knee at yesterday’s match. We call on England fans to applaud the players at today’s England match.” 

Fellow co-convener of Stand up to Racism Weyman Bennett said: “Taking the knee is an act of solidarity against racism. It is the same as supporting the civil rights movement, anti-apartheid South Africa or any progressive movement. Those who oppose take a knee are on the wrong side of history. They simply camouflage a racist mindset that has no place in the 21st century. We all have a duty to stand up against racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism. We should celebrate those who take the knee.” 

The statement’s list of signatories included Labour MPs Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Richard Burgon and Claudia Webb, ex-pro footballer Shaka Hislop, Morning Star editor Ben Chacko and the union Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch and CWU general secretary Dave Ward.

The statement added: “We express our solidarity with those teams who show their opposition to racism by taking the knee at Euro 2020. We believe Boris Johnson should have forcefully condemned the booing of England players by a small minority of so-called supporters.

“Johnson’s statement said he ‘fully respects the right of those who choose to peacefully protest and make their feelings known’ and ‘on taking the knee, specifically, the Prime Minister is more focused on action rather than gestures.’

“Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith repugnantly compared taking the knee to England footballers performing the Nazi salute during a 1938 match with Germany. Another Tory MP Lee Anderson stated he will boycott England games because of Take The Knee. Johnson failed to condemn these MPs which is giving succour to the far right.

“A host of right-wing figures including former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and former actor and right-wing politician Lawrence Fox have joined in the attacks on the players, England’s manager Gareth Southgate and BBC pundit Gary Lineker who has publicly opposed the booing and supported the team’s anti-racist stance.

“Now videos are circulating calling for protests against taking the knee at Wembley stadium coinciding with England’s first game against Croatia on Sunday. These videos are being promoted by convicted criminal Tommy Robinson and others.

“We reject racism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism and attempts by the far right to use football to build support. We stand in solidarity with all teams who choose to #TakeTheKnee in support of #BlackLivesMatter and in opposition to racism. We call on all fans to show their solidarity with their teams taking the knee before kick off by applauding the players.”

On the pitch, Raheem Sterling’s second-half goal proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Full list of signatories:

Diane Abbott MP

John McDonnell MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Richard Burgon MP

Claudia Webbe MP

Zarah Sultana MP

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the union

Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of NEU

Dave Ward, general secretary of CWU

Shavanah Taj, general secretary of WTUC

Shaka Hislop, honorary president of Show Racism the Red Card

Mike Rosen, poet and writer

Mick Lynch, general secretary RMT

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef

Lord Hain

Baroness Blower

Sabby Dhalu & Weyman Bennett, co-conveners Stand Up to Racism

Patrick Vernon OBE, social commentator and Windrush campaigner

Azhar Qayum, CEO Muslim Engagement and Development 

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman Finsbury Park Mosque

Raghad Altikriti, Muslim Association of Britain president

Anas Altikriti, CEO The Cordoba Foundation

Daniel Kebede, senior vice-president of National Education Union

Jane Loftus, president of CWU

Gloria Mills, TUC race relations committee chair/ Unison national secretary & head of equality

Awamer Anwar, human rights lawyer

Ben Chacko, Morning Star editor

Lindsey German, Stop the War convener

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