Wilfried Zaha has reiterated his belief that taking the knee before matches is “degrading” and insists that on the subject of racism: “Unless action is going to happen, don’t speak to me about it.”
Since project restart last summer, players, officials and staff at Premier League and EFL games have been taking the knee prior to kick-off to show support for the movement for racial equality.
Premier League clubs’ shirts also carried the Black Lives Matter slogan during the restarted 2019-20 season before being changed for this season to feature a patch promoting the league’s own anti-discrimination campaign No Room For Racism.
However, racist abuse of footballers on social media has been prevalent in recent weeks and several teams, including Brentford last weekend, have stopped taking the knee before games – something Crystal Palace forward Zaha believes has become an empty gesture.
“Obviously I’ve said before that I feel like taking the knee is degrading and stuff because growing up my parents just let me know that I should be proud to be black no matter what and I feel like we should just stand tall,” Zaha said, speaking at Thursday’s Financial Times’ Business of Football summit.
“Because I feel like taking the knee now, it’s becoming…we do it before games and even sometimes people forget that we have to do it before games.
“Trying to get the meaning behind it, it’s becoming something that we just do now and that’s not enough for me. I’m not going to take the knee, I’m not going to wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my shirt because it feels like it’s a target.
“We’re isolating ourselves, we’re trying to say that we’re equal but we’re isolating ourselves with these things that aren’t even working anyway, so that’s my stand on it. I feel like we should stand tall and now I don’t really tend to speak on racism and stuff like that because I’m not here just to tick boxes.”
He added: “Unless action is going to happen, don’t speak to me about it.”
While Zaha has not been as vocal on certain issues as other top-flight footballers such as Marcus Rashford, he believes he has a role to play to try and make a change.
He said: “I’m not really an activist but if I’ve got a platform to try and make a change, why not?
“No matter how small my platform is compared to other people, I don’t see why I would not say anything on something that means a lot to me and means a lot to other people so it’s a thing where I feel like I have a duty to do what I can really.
“Marcus Rashford, he’s got his platform there and he’s pushed through to make things happen and some people just tell him to stick to football and stuff, but how can you say that if he’s probably feeding your child?
“So obviously certain footballers will just play football and go home, but I feel like with the opportunity you have to broaden your horizon and do more, you only live once, why not? Then, if you can inspire people at the same time you’re doing it – it’s a win-win.”