Euro 2020: Don’t boo footballers taking the knee, Boris Johnson tells England


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Boris Johnson has told England fans not to boo the football team for taking the knee in protest against racial injustice after previously failing to criticise the scenes.

Number 10 said the prime minister wants the public to “cheer them on, not boo” ahead of the Euro 2020 tournament, and explicitly supported those who decide to take part in the protest.

The PM’s official spokesman earlier this week declined to condemn those who booed players, only going so far as urging them to be “respectful”.

England's Jadon Sancho takes a knee before during the international friendly match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough on Sunday June 6, 2021
England’s Jadon Sancho takes a knee

But Downing Street has now gone further to tell crowds not to jeer the national team after coming under pressure to take a firmer stance.

Asked if Mr Johnson backs players taking the knee, a Number 10 spokesman said on Friday: “Yes. The prime minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

“The prime minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo.”

England players were met with boos by some fans when taking the knee at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough prior to the friendly matches against Austria and Romania last week.

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Gareth Southgate’s side – who play their opening Euro 2020 match on Sunday – have insisted taking the knee is not a political gesture and they are doing it to reinforce the message that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated.

In an open letter to England fans in The Players’ Tribune, England manager Southgate said he has “a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players”.

He added: “It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.”

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