DAN WOOTTON: Premier League captains are right to stop taking the knee, a BLM gesture

Are we ready to admit yet that the world went a little bit mad back in the summer of 2020?

Perhaps it’s no surprise.

Locked in our homes for months on end – unable to work or shop or see our friends or travel – the pent-up emotion and frustration just had to give somehow.

The horrific murder of George Floyd in the US state of Minnesota, a world away from Britain in terms of race relations, lit the spark that saw the far-left Marxist Black Lives Matter organisation bizarrely embraced overnight as somehow mainstream and acceptable.

Even though the protest was originally inspired by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who took the knee during the American national anthem to protest against racial inequality, it soon became intrinsically linked with BLM.

It didn’t seem to matter that the incendiary group wanted to defund the police, dismantle capitalism and tear down the traditional family unit, their divisive politics took centre stage.

And everyone from Keir Starmer to policemen who were meant to be controlling the increasingly violent protests in London started taking the knee.

England players take the knee ahead of their match against Denmark at Wembley Stadium in 2020

England players take the knee ahead of their match against Denmark at Wembley Stadium in 2020

Pictured: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement

Pictured: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the woke world of sport followed suit ­– and, two years on, up until the end of last season, Premier League players continued to take the knee before every game.

Proponents of the divisive gesture, who want it to continue forever more, have since tried to dress it up as an anti-discrimination symbol with no connection to politics.

That’s about as disingenuous as you can get – and ordinary folk have seen through all this nonsense.

Even when so-called liberals on the nasty left like Angela Rayner have tried to sow division by describing frustrated football fans who boo the taking of the knee as racist.

Or the woke zealot England manager Gareth Southgate, who took the most trenchant position by saying any boos represented a direct criticism of the team’s black players.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Football fans were quite rightly reacting to a truly harmful ideology being unnecessarily injected into the game they love.

Some brave black players like Crystal Palace ace Wilfried Zaha refused to kneel, describing the act as ‘degrading’, while entire teams like Brentford followed suit.

But imagine being a white member of a professional team and refusing to take the knee – they would have immediately been lambasted as racist and intolerant.

Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner 'takes a knee' in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters

Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner ‘takes a knee’ in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters

So, like sheep, the vast majority of teams continued the empty gesture, even though so many players of all ethnicities disagree with its presence and know it was doing absolutely nothing to decrease racism in the UK.

Until today that is.

Sportsmail revealed exclusively this morning that the Premier League captains had decided not to take the knee before every game.

But because it’s 2022, a politically correct statement soon followed where the players insisted they remain fully committed to the battle for equality and will still perform the gesture before the opening game of the season and other special matches, like Boxing Day, the FA Cup and EFL Cup finals.

Pictured: Dan Wootton

Pictured: Dan Wootton

Hilariously, they also announced the clubs would donate £238,000 from royalties of the ‘No Room For Racism’ sleeve badges sold on club shirts last season.

What a joke – that’s less than two weeks of shamed cat abuser Kurt Zouma’s salary alone.

In reality though, today’s announcement marks the beginning of the end for kneeling in the Premier League and not before time.

But now attention is going to turn to Southgate’s England World Cup team who seem determined to continue the gesture in Qatar later this year.

The irony of a bunch of privileged millionaire footballers performing an anti-discrimination gesture in a totalitarian country where gay folk and female rape victims can be thrown into jail is off the scale.

Not to mention the hundreds of migrant workers who have died in 41.5 degree blistering heat building the multi-billion-pound stadium they’re going to be comfortably playing in.

And this is the whole problem with footballers setting themselves up as paragons of virtue.

Because if they truly cared about human rights and equality, there is no way they could countenance playing in Qatar full stop.

Your rainbow laces and knee taking won’t make a blind bit of difference there, believe me.

The solution is to keep football free from empty political gestures and then you won’t be accused of unthinkable hypocrisy.

But I fear we’re continuing down a path of consistent virtue signalling which is going to take so much of the joy out of the game.

The BBC’s leftie woketopian in chief Gary Lineker found out that himself this week when he was quite beautifully hoisted by his own petard after being accused of being sexist for a light-hearted tweet celebrating the Lionesses’ victory.

Following the game, he had posted: ‘The @Lionesses have only gone and done it, and Kelly is England’s heroine, bra none.’

A perfectly fun comment that no one down the pub would think was even slightly offensive.

But cue the type of Twitter pile on Lineker usually loves to unleash on others who question his far-left politics, eventually forcing him into deleting the perfectly harmless post.

Lineker had become the victim of the sort of woke cancel culture he has helped to create in football, where using a pun sees you destroyed by the fun police.

That’s why the Premier League players are right to stop taking the knee – and if the England team have a scintilla of sense between them, they will retire the gesture before the World Cup too.

If they’re stupid enough to kneel in Qatar, they deserve to be laughed off the pitch.

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