Football fans booing England players taking the knee last week is an issue that goes further than sport. It shows how racism is structured and used by the elite.
Boris Johnson has stepped in to whip up racism from the top.
Players have taken the knee in national leagues and international competitions as a mark of opposing racism for months. It followed the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.
Yet abuse from fans at England’s game last Sunday, although challenged by loud applause, was heard by all.
It wasn’t some “technical” objection to the form of anti-racist actions. It was racism.
The European Football Championship kicks off this week. And bigot Tory Johnson refusing to condemn the jeers will only fuel racists further.
It’s a very clear example that racism is more than just backwards ideas that some people can hold. Crucially it comes from above.
Johnson says he is more focused on action rather than gestures—despite claiming institutional racism doesn’t exist. And he “wants the whole country”—presumably racists and anti‑racists—to get behind England’s team.
In reality this means cutting class lines and pushing English nationalist pride with flags flying.
Refusing to condemn the booing is Johnson’s way of finding new opportunities to ramp up his culture wars.
The Tories are constantly attempting to create divisions to weaken class unity and resistance. And a divided working class is easier to exploit.
As the competition goes on, they will look for more opportunities to ramp up their attacks on “woke” anti-racists. In truth a great deal more than taking the knee is necessary to kick racism out of football and wider society.
And some of those in the higher layers of sport are quite prepared to peddle empty “diversity” talk while doing nothing concrete over racism.
But it’s not for the Tories to decide who can and can’t take the knee.
Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith has decided the knee is “little more than habitual tokenism”.
He also compared England’s actions to the team that gave a Nazi salute before a match in Berlin in 1938. That gesture was backed by Britain’s rulers with The Times newspaper congratulating the players for respecting their hosts. Fascists such as Tommy Robinson are now looking to join protesters against taking the knee.
If he benefits at all then it will be Johnson who has opened the door to him.
We need to confront all those who are seeking to suggest that opposing racism is wrong. And we need a confident, political movement against racism and the system that generates it.