Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League star to fail to take a knee during a game, issuing a video prior to kickoff detailing that he thinks the gesture has lost its meaning in society.
The 28-year-old kept his promise until kick-off against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon, standing as the rest of the team knelt as the referee blew his whistle.
‘Whether we kneel or rise, some of us still receive threats,’ Zaha said in a statement issued by his management firm, RocNation, shortly after kick-off.
The statement began,
“My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now.”
“There is no correct or wrong response, but I believe kneeling has simply become a part of the pre-match ritual, and whether we kneel or stand, some of us are already subjected to violence.
“I understand that the Premier League and other authorities are working tirelessly behind the scenes to affect progress, and I deeply support that initiative and everyone involved. I still have complete appreciation for my peers and players from other teams who continue to kneel.
“As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people who abuse others online – not just footballers. I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall.”
In July 2020 this was emphasised when a 12-year-old boy was arrested on charges that he was sent vile comments over the social media. Zaha talked a lot about race violence in the past.
The Crystal Palace forward is the first player in the Premier League to refuse to take a knee, and his decision could signal a shift in the league’s approach toward the sport.