Premier League players kneel in Black Lives Matter solidarity
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling said it was a “massive step” that players took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the opening night of the Premier League’s return.
Players and staff from Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Arsenal knelt as their matches began.
Match officials also took part, on a night players’ names on shirts were replaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’.
“It shows we’re going in the right direction,” Sterling told Sky Sports.
“Little by little we’re seeing change. It was natural, it was organic. We saw the teams do it in the earlier kick-off and thought it was something we had to do as well.”
The Premier League was returning after a 100-day hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
And players and officials showed their support for the movement for racial equality following the death of George Floyd in the United States last month.
Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died as a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His death sparked protests around the world.
‘I feel really bad’ – Guardiola on racial inequality
A joint statement issued by Villa and Sheffield United shortly after their match began said they “were proud to stand in solidarity” with the actions of their players and coaching staff in “expressing our collective support for the Black Lives Matter movement”.
Both clubs said they hoped they had sent “a strong message of unity” and amplified “the many messages of support from Premier League players and the wider football family”.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola added: “White people should say sorry for the way we have treated black people for 400 years. I am ashamed of what we have done to black people around the world.
“It is not only in the USA where it has happened. The problem is everywhere.
“Maybe for our generation it is too late but for the following generations, they can understand the only race is ourselves. We are human beings. It doesn’t matter the colour of our skin.”
Colin Kaepernick started kneeling symbolically during the pre-game national anthem in the NFL in 2016, in protest at police violence against African-Americans in the United States.
A ‘Black Lives Matter’ badge will feature on all playing shirts for the rest of the season
‘That touched my heart’
Former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison said the moment players took a knee in the opening game of the restart was “special”.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “That touched my heart. I didn’t expect that. It was magnificent. Credit to both sets of players and staff.”
Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said Premier League players wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on their shirts shows the league wants to be on the right side of history.
“What the Premier League have done, is to give them the power,” said Wright, who was sent racist abuse on social media last month.
Research by UK Sport and Sport England last year found that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people accounted for just 5.2% of board members across the 130 sport organisations they fund, including the Football Association.
According to the 2011 Census, about 13% of the population of England and Wales is from a BAME background.
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina (left), defender Tyrone Mings (centre) and midfielder Jack Grealish (right) warming up for Aston Villa