Saturday 6th December 2020 should have been remembered as the day fans returned back to watch The Beautiful Game in stadiums.
I never got used to the new normality of stadiums with added noises of crowds cheering like it’s an EA FIFA game.
However, this date will always be remembered when Millwall fans booed the football players which took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Millwall fans felt politics should be kept out of football.
Their fan club released a statement saying “the boos were aimed at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) organisation, which it said held “extreme political views’“
Collectively we write books, talk about different types of racism, educate others with the hope that it lights a spark in someone to actively continue the dialogue.
For that fleeting moment during the summer of 2020, it felt like the world was listening.
Opal Tometi co-founded Black Lives Matter with Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza in 2013.
It was founded in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer.
Opal said she started it with the sole intention for “Black people to have the right to LIVE”
The website also states that: We are a collective of liberators who believe in an inclusive and spacious movement.
During the summer of 2020, Premier League football matches had football players wearing jerseys with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and other social and political messages stitched onto them.
The Premier League has now distanced itself from Black Lives Matter because the message has been diluted and become unclear. In September 2020, they dropped the Black Lives Matter slogan from the players’ shirts altogether.
The Premier League now promote their own initiative “No Room For Racism” instead.
“Discrimination in any form, anywhere, is wholly unacceptable and No Room for Racism makes our zero-tolerance stance clear,” said Richard Masters who is the Premier League’s chief executive.
Numerous Premier League football players across the country continue to take a knee because they want to continue to spread awareness of the movement.
Harry Kane said it was important for white Premier League football players to continue to highlight racism.
“A lot of white players in the league haven’t been racially abused but we have all been there or seen team-mates and friends racially abused so we want to help make a change.
“The only way to do that is to stick together, to voice your opinion and try to help make that change.”
Since Premier League footballers started to take the knee, we have seen a lot of football fans on social media saying that politics should be kept out of football.
These fans also don’t realise that racism is just as much a social issue as it is about politics.
Interestingly, the fans do not seem to oppose footballers wearing poppies in the lead up to Remembrance Day and on Remembrance Sunday.
Remembrance Day honours the heroic efforts, achievements, and sacrifices that were made in past wars.
The main observance is on the second Sunday in November, but 2 minutes of silence is also made on November 11.
The Premier League and the English Football League (EFL) have requested that teams wear jerseys with poppies embroidered on jerseys during matches.
This happens during the build-up to Remembrance Day, these jerseys are then auctioned with the proceeds going to the British Legion.
In 2016, FIFA attempted to ban players from wearing poppies stating that the world governing body prohibits political, religious, or commercial messages being displayed on the pitch.
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were fined by FIFA for displaying poppies during the World Cup qualifiers around Armistice Day.
In 2017, the ban was lifted with guidelines that could see the poppy permitted if opposing teams and the competition organiser for the relevant match both accept its use in advance.
Not everyone feels comfortable wearing a poppy, footballer James McClean has refused to wear a poppy each year since he moved to England to play for Sunderland in 2011.
McClean was born and raised in Derry, Northern Ireland and explains that “People say I am being disrespectful but don’t ask why I choose not to wear it. If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.
I would wear it every day of the year if that was the thing but it isn’t. It stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in. Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”
He grew up on Creggan Estate, where six of the people that were killed on Bloody Sunday (in 1972) came from.
There have been mixed reviews – fans of the opposition as well as fans from his team have booed and trolled him online. However, McClean has also received support from various players and fans.
The irony of football fans picking and choosing when to support a political cause is astounding.
Black Lives Matter – The Movement
There is confusion regarding what the Black Lives Matter UK movement stands for.
It started in August 2016 as an UK offshoot of the international movement, and gained traction in September 2016 when nine protestors chained themselves to a giant tripod in London City Airport.
The movement wanted to raise awareness of the economic disparity between the people that use London City Airport to the people that lived in the surrounding East London area.
“The average salary of a London City airport user is £92,000, in Newham where the airport is located 40% of the population struggle to survive on £20,000 or less.”
I remember that this was my introduction to the UK movement, here to highlight the racial disparities in the UK as well as globally.
This isn’t forgetting those that have been doing the work for years, Lee Jasper, Darcus Howe, Olive Morris, Janet Adler, Doreen Lawrence to name a few.
The BLMUK movement matters to me because it sends the message that we are stronger together.
Tackling issues such as racism is a never-ending behemoth task and the movement reminds us that we are not alone in this.
I understand their need for anonymity as this work can be dangerous and have serious repercussions if you are not protected properly.
The movement is quick to share education in how to protest safely, what to do if arrested, and who to seek legal counsel from.
It is showing us how Black lives matter daily for which I am forever grateful. It’s an affirmation in action and it’s a fantastic resource for me.
Black Lives Matter – The Organisation
The Black Lives Matter’s UK affiliate – officially registered as a community benefit society under the name Black Liberation Movement UK – denied the involvement of the UK wide political party.
However, activists from Black Lives Matter’s UK affiliate have said they were not behind an attempt to register the name as a new UK political party .
In October 2020, there was an application to register a UK-wide political party under the name Black Lives Matter which was published by the Electoral Commission.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Lemara Francis said: “BLM is proud to be a political organisation, but has no plans to set up a political party.
“This year, the surge in support for Black Lives Matter has seen a range of new individuals and groups acting under the BLM banner. Not all of them share the goals of the wider BLM movement.”
BLM isn’t a trend and because of the mixed messages and affiliates, it’s easy to see why a few misguided individuals booed the act and not understood the movement.
How many times have we seen a name trending for the wrong reasons?! For those who say it only happens in America, think again.
James Cleverly the Foreign Minister for Middle East and Northern Africa said:
“Actually, there are some within the BLM movement, who are pushing a very extreme political agenda, certainly not all, and I don’t believe for a second any of the players on the pitch were reflecting that.”
“But I do think that the booing was wrong and if people want to take the knee in solidarity with those fighting racism I completely understand that.”
The players were ALWAYS kneeling in solidarity with those fighting racism, and the aforementioned Foreign Minister could have said that and left that there.
At the back of my mind is always the quote from Toni Morrison about when it comes to racism
“The very serious function of racism… is a distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do.
Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary.”
In other words, stop trying to distract focus on what the movement is truly about! As it’s tiring at this point.
After the Millwall fans debacle, Millwall FC has pledged a series of anti-discrimination measures.
The Millwall players stood arm in arm with the Queen’s Park Rangers players in the follow-up match on Tuesday 8th December.
The chef’s kiss was when the QPR players celebrated by taking the knee in front of the Millwall fans!
Now we know why the Movement needs to Matter.
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