‘Totally wrong’ to boo players taking the knee, says Boris Johnson

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England take the knee ahead of a match (PA Wire)
England take the knee ahead of a match (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson said he disapproves of England fans booing the national team for taking the knee in protest against racism.

The prime minister said he backed England players and could see “no reason” to boo them, though he did suggest the team's chosen method of protest was ineffective.

“I support England’s players,” Mr Johnson said when asked by Channel 5 about taking the knee ahead of England's first Euro 2020 game.

But he went on: “When it comes to gestures and symbols I’m more on the side of practical action to combat racism and make life better for everybody in this country.”

Asked whether he condemned those who boo, he said: “I disapprove of people booing the England team... I see no reason to do that.”

He added: “Cheer the England team, cheer the Scotland team, the Welsh team.”

When asked on Friday by the BBC, he said he thought it was "totally wrong" to boo the national team.

The prime minister's comments were in marked contrast to those made by one of his ministers, who earlier in the week said the protest was “creating division” in the UK.

On the BBC’s Question Time, education minister Gillian Keegan said: “What we’ve ended up with, whether it’s for statues, whether it’s the Queen’s picture, whether it’s taking the knee, we’ve ended up with these things being things that kind of divide us and actually, united societies are what solve these big issues.”

Ms Keegan went on to defend those who booed the players: “And by the way, the people who are booing, I’m pretty sure most of them would like to end racism as well. They disagree. There’s a lot of things that have been, you know, there’s different things that people are interpreting.”

On Friday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed the government supported players taking the knee, so long as the action was separate from political movement Black Lives Matter.

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