England manager Gareth Southgate said his team will not “just stick to football” during the European Championship while one of his players also said the squad was united in its stance against racial injustice despite jeers from some fans.
The comments came after England’s pleas to respect the anti-discrimination gesture of taking a knee before the match were again ignored by a small section of spectators during the side’s final Euro 2020 warmup match against Romania.
“We will keep doing that. We believe in that and we won’t stop,” left back Luke Shaw said on Tuesday of an issue that has dominated media coverage of England’s buildup to the tournament.
Popularised last year by the Black Lives Matter movement, the knee gesture has become a staple before kickoff at games in England’s Premier League, seen by millions around the world.
But some fans feel it has lost its impact or over-politicised football. Their jeers were, however, drowned out by wider applause at the Romania game.
In an open letter to fans, Southgate said it was his responsibility to interact with society and help put debates such as racial awareness in the spotlight.
“I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold,” Southgate wrote for The Players’ Tribune website. “I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.
“Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.
“I have never believed that we should just stick to football.”
Speaking at a news conference, Shaw said the players believed it was important to keep making a statement.
“We’ve had discussions about it. We all choose (to take a knee) and agreed it was the right thing to do,” Shaw said.
England will open its Euros campaign with Sunday’s group-stage match against Croatia at Wembley.
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