Mr Baker said opposition to the players’ stance by some of his colleagues had been ill-founded. “We have to get alongside those players who are taking the knee and understand they are not saying defund the police, they are not anti-capitalist,” he said. “What they are doing is saying ‘We suffer racism’.”
It follows England footballer Tyrone Mings drawing a direct link between Home Secretary Priti Patel’s comments at the start of the Euro 2020 tournament criticising the players for “gesture politics” and the racist online abuse aimed towards his young teammates after the final. On his own England debut in Bulgaria in 2019 Mr Mings was himself subjected to appalling racist abuse including Nazi salutes and monkey chants to the extent the game was stopped twice.
While Mr Johnson subsequently insisted in Parliament that “We made absolutely clear no one should boo the England team” for taking the knee, the picture is more complex.
On June 7, his spokesman refused to condemn those that had booed the England team in a warm-up game and equivocated by saying Mr Johnson was “more focused on action rather than gestures”. However, on June 11, the day the tournament started, Downing Street said Mr Johnson did in fact back players taking the knee and “wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo”.
But that message was then considerably undermined by Ms Patel’s intervention, which was broadcast on June 14, and also saw her state it was the choice of the fans whether to boo after she criticised the principle of the players for taking the knee.
It is little surprise a month later, the England players are somewhat cynical about the true level of support they have from the Government on the issue.
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