The Football Association will adopt “a commonsense approach” if Premier League players heed the call from the chairman of Kick It Out to take a knee in protest at the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
Fifa has urged national associations to be understanding about the context of Floyd’s death and, with players from Chelsea and Newcastle following their Liverpool counterparts by going down on one knee at training, the FA has indicated its reluctance to discipline individuals who stand against racism when the Premier League season resumes on 17 June.
Sanjay Bhandari, the chairman of Kick It Out, said on Monday the FA must show leniency if players call for social change and said there was no breach of rules around political messaging when Marcus Thuram went down on one knee after scoring for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Hertha Berlin on Sunday. The German FA is investigating Thuram’s protest and those of Jadon Sancho, Achraf Hakimi and Weston McKennie, who displayed “Justice for George Floyd” messages.
It is doubtful players in England will face punishment if they take a knee – a symbolic protest against racial inequality and police brutality that the NFL player Colin Kaepernick used in 2016.
Similarly, players are unlikely to face retrospective action if they display Justice for George Floyd messages, with disciplinary measures expected only if an action is deemed offensive or provocative. A player who takes off his shirt could still expect a booking.
An FA spokesperson said: “The FA strongly condemns discrimination of any kind and has endeavoured to ensure football in England is both diverse and inclusive in recent years. Where any behaviours or gestures on the pitch that may constitute a breach of the Laws of the Game have to be assessed, they would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis with a commonsense approach and understanding of their context.
“The power of football can break down barriers across communities and we remain deeply committed to removing all forms of discrimination from across the game we all love.”
Liverpool’s players went down on one knee in the Anfield centre circle on Monday and Chelsea and Newcastle players followed suit at their training grounds on Tuesday.
“We want to use our position to express that we are living in a world where we have to try to improve it for the future, to be a better world with more love, without hate,” the Chelsea captain, César Azpilicueta, said. “We have seen recently the result of racism and we see every day that that kind of hate has to be eradicated from society, and we have to play our part.
“There is every day the possibility to lead by example, to behave, to educate the children into a better world because we know that education is key for the future.
“We know the young generation is coming behind us and we want to leave them in a better world with more possibilities without any kind of discrimination or racism, so everything matters and it is time to speak up and to face up to the attitudes we are seeing. There is no place for all of this.”