Boris Johnson backs England football team over taking the knee before Euros games

Prime minister Boris Johnson has backed the England squad’s collective decision to take the knee prior to their Euro 2021 matches this summer.

Despite strong appeals by head coach Gareth Southgate, England supporters continued to boo the gesture of solidarity ahead of England’s final warm-up match against Romania last weekend.

Asked whether Johnson supported the players’ protests, a spokesman said the prime minister “fully respects” their right to “make their feelings known” and added: “I would want all England fans to be respectful in any football match and, as I have said, he respects the right of those who want to peacefully protest in this way.”

When questioned whether taking a knee showed support for the political aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, the spokesman stressed that the prime minister is “more focused on action rather than gestures” when it comes to tackling issues of racial injustice.

However, he did stop short of criticising those who have booed previously, reiterating that all individuals are free to express their opinion before encouraging fans to unite in their support of the national team.

“The prime minister is supporting the England football team and wants them to succeed and he wants the whole country to get behind them in that endeavour in this tournament,” he said.

After England’s players were booed prior to their friendly against Austria, Southgate had made a firm plea to fans to respect the team’s position. “It is not something on behalf of our black players that I wanted to hear, because it feels as though it is a criticism of them,” he said.

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“I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with. That is not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other.

“I think the majority of people understand it. I think some people aren’t quite understanding the message, and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.”

Johnson also backed the comments made by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) went “over the top” by suspending Ollie Robinson over historical racist and sexist tweets.

The social media posts, published in 2012 and 2013 when Robinson was a teenager, emerged as he made his England debut in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.

Robinson issued a public apology but has since been dropped and suspended pending an investigation.

Dowden had claimed the tweets were “offensive and wrong” but “also a decade old and written by a teenager”.

Johnson’s spokesman said: “The PM is supportive of Oliver Dowden’s comments. As Dowden set out, these were comments made more than a decade ago written by someone as a teenager and for which they’ve rightly apologised.”



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