English Championship club Queens Park Rangers have hit out at critics of their decision to not take a knee ahead of a recent game, saying that the message behind the ongoing social justice campaign has been lost.
Players from both QPR and Coventry opted to forgo the pre-match ritual which has been commonplace in English football, and throughout the rest of the world, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in May and the resulting protests which have been galvanized by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
This was the first time that a recent televised game in England began without players from either team briefly kneeling before kick-off – but Director of Football Les Ferdinand said that the decision wasn’t made through a lack of support for racial equality, but rather because the club feels that the gesture has become ‘diluted’.
“We have noted with great interest a number of people within football and media questioning our decision not to take the knee before the game,” Ferdinand said in a statement released by the club Monday afternoon.
“The decision – which was made jointly with Coventry City and the match referee ahead of the fixture – was not made to suggest a lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
📝 We have issued a statement following comments made about #QPR’s decision not to ‘take the knee’.
“This should not be about QPR. Many clubs did not take the knee on the opening weekend, yet this was not reported.
“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.”
Former England international striker Ferdinand, who is black, also stated that he has been a vocal supporter of racial equality issues throughout his career but says that fundamental change can only come about by actions – not by gestures – also noting that a QPR underage team was forced to abandon a game a year ago because of racist abuse they were receiving from the stands.
“Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will,” Ferdinand continued.
“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.
“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.”
🔈Here’s a statement from our Chair @SanjayKickItOut, in response to comments surrounding players either taking or not taking a knee at the weekend 👇🏿👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/VKUt4TTVus
Anti-Racism watchdog Kick It Out, noting QPR’s stance, released comments of their own advising players that they advocate for their rights to peacefully protest in any way they see fit without fear of sanction from their club or another governing body.
However, they agreed with Ferdinand and QPR chairman Lee Hoos, saying that they must, “focus on action that creates real change.
“We should be talking about solutions, not symbols,” they said.