Swansea and Bristol City players have decided to stop taking the knee ahead of games on the eve of their first match of the Championship season.
The gesture became widespread across the English football pyramid when the sport returned in June 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Swans confirmed they have ‘collectively decided’ to end their involvement, while manager Russell Martin added that the squad’s feelings have been impacted by the alleged racist abuse of Rhys Williams last season.
Bedfordshire Police opened an investigation after the Liverpool loanee allegedly received racist comments from a Luton fan in Swansea’s 3-3 draw with the Hatters at Kenilworth Road in September 2021.
Welsh international Ben Cabango and former Swans players Jamal Lowe and Yan Dhanda have also been racially abused on social media in the last two seasons.
‘Whatever the players decide, we back them 100 per cent,’ Martin said in his pre-match press conference as Swansea prepare to face Rotherham on Saturday.
‘We have a group of players that really care a huge amount about this and the things that have happened to the players here over a period of time as well.
Swansea’s players confirmed they ‘collectively decided’ to stop taking the knee before games
‘They felt really let down by the way the Rhys Williams situation was handled last season. They feel they take the knee and make a stand, make a statement. To them, after that, it had very little meaning. The Rhys thing has fizzled out into absolutely nothing.
‘There’s been continued talks with Grimesy [Matt Grimes] and the rest of the players, with the PFA about what the protocol is and how it works.
‘They think it’s lost its impact. It’s their decision and we totally support them on that. They are working to find their own way with the club and the foundation to make more of an impact than they do currently.
‘I admire the stand they’re taking. If the opposition do it, then they’ll stand and clap. But they just feel that it doesn’t have the impact it once did. They feel it’s become something of a token gesture. We support them and we’ll find our own way on making more of an impact.’
Other clubs and players have also stopped taking the knee and instead found other ways to support the fight against racism.
Rhys Williams suffered alleged racist abuse while playing for the Swans against Luton last year
QPR made the decision to do so in September 2020, with director of football Les Ferdinand saying at the time that the gesture was ‘little more than good PR’.
The full statement from Swansea’s players and coaching staff read: ‘Following discussions as a group, we have collectively decided to no longer take the knee prior to fixtures during the 2022-23 season.
‘We have taken the knee before every game since football resumed in June 2020, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, and in no way reflects any diminishing of our belief that discrimination of any nature is abhorrent and has no place in football or society. We remain firmly in support of what taking the knee stands for and represents.
‘Taking the knee has undoubtedly helped to raise awareness and encourage conversations about how to remove racism from the game we all love.
Swans manager Russell Martin said ‘whatever the players decide, we back them 100 per cent’
‘Should any opposition side take the knee before a game this season, then we will line-up and applaud them, because we absolutely support the sentiment behind it.
‘But we feel we want to take responsibility as a group and find alternative ways to show our commitment to inclusion and diversity, and we feel that needs to run deeper than taking the knee each time we play.
‘We want to work to be a force for positive, substantive change.
‘As a club, Swansea City is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, and we will seek to keep working alongside the Swansea City AFC Foundation, who do so much good in promoting the message that football, and sport in general, is for everyone.
Another Swansea player, Ben Cabango, suffered racist abuse on social media in March 2021
‘We have had first-hand experience of the devastating impact discriminatory abuse can have, with several of us having been on the receiving end of disgusting verbal and social media abuse over the last two seasons. You will recall a number of those instances led to the club holding a boycott of social media in April 2021.
‘The experiences those individuals who were targeted, and us as a group, went through have not been forgotten, nor will they be forgotten in the future.
‘Substantive change is needed, and we – and all victims of discrimination – require the support of the relevant authorities, social media companies and governing bodies in order to ensure a brighter future and a more equal, empathetic society.
‘We are a family, and we will always stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, whether that’s on the pitch or helping to fight injustice and raise awareness off it.’
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