Former England defender Rio Ferdinand has hit out at ‘ignorant’ fans who have booed players taking the knee.
Footballers taking the knee briefly before the start of matches has taken the spotlight again in recent weeks with some Three Lions supporters booing the players ahead of recent international friendlies against Austria and Romania.
The victories and performances in the two warm-up friendlies – along with the side’s build-up to this summer’s European Championships – have largely been subsequently overshadowed.
It has been suggested that the booing has been motivated by alleged connections with the political movement Black Lives Matter.
However that has been explicitly rejected by both the players and boss Gareth Southgate.
Footballers insist they are taking the knee due to the ongoing fight against racism and abuse, which has seemingly intensified in recent times with players increasingly targeted online.
The abuse has not been limited to just online action, with former defensive star Ferdinand the target of racism from a fan in the stands while covering Manchester United ’s victory at Wolves on the final day of the Premier League.
Ferdinand told his YouTube channel: “These fans, these ignorant people going to these games, they haven’t got a clue.
“They don’t know what the players are kneeling for. It’s not a political stance.
“All these people saying, ‘BLM is a political movement’ – [the knee] is nothing to do with [BLM]. So take that out of your mind.
“The players, the manager are telling you, ‘This is not a political campaign, the reason why we kneel is nothing to do with politics’.
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“This stance is about racism, about people being treated the right way and respectfully, and not based on the colour of their skin.
“There is no valid reason for booing. They’re meant to be here helping the team, pushing them along.
“The players’ narrative around this is nothing to do with politics so please just support this team, support these players.
“They don’t want injustice, they don’t want people to be judged off the colour of their skin. And they’re kneeling because of that. So why are you booing?”
England players will continue to take the knee throughout this summer’s European Championships, with boss Southgate insisting: “We feel, more than ever, we are determined to take the knee throughout the tournament.
“We accept there might be an adverse reaction but we’re going to ignore it and move forward.
“We are all trying to move towards equality — and support our team-mates because of some of the experiences they’ve been through — but people decided to boo.
“The players are sick of talking about all the consequences of should they, shouldn’t they.
“They’ve had enough really. And as far as I’m concerned, they are not going to take any more questions on this through the tournament. If it happens, it happens.
“Their voices have been made loud and clear. They are making their stand — but they want the focus to be on football.”