A Tory MP today compared England players taking the knee to the national side’s infamous pre-WWII Nazi salute – as Laurence Fox blasted ‘millionaire woke babies protesting inequality on £200,000-a-week’.
Brendan Clarke-Smith controversially invoked the shameful episode before a friendly with Germany in 1938 to demonstrate that ‘mixing politics and football’ had ‘disastrous consequences’.
The MP for Bassetlaw said that taking the knee is now seen as an expression of support for Black Lives Matter, a ‘political movement’ which had argued in favour of ‘crushing capitalism, defunding the police, destroying the nuclear family and attacking Israel’.
Boris Johnson today backed England players who had taken the knee, with his spokesman urging fans to ‘get behind’ the team and be ‘respectful’.
Footballers have taken to kneeling before every game for the past year in a defiant message against racism after BLM protests spread the gesture around the world following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.
After thousands booed the stance ahead of Wednesday’s win over Austria, manager Gareth Southgate urged fans to support players making the gesture against discrimination, but this failed to convince some sections of the crowd who continued to jeer at the second England warm-up game on Sunday.
Writing on a Facebook blog, Mr Clarke-Smith, 40, disagreed with Southgate, arguing that despite their ‘admirable’ desire to express their opposition to racism, footballers taking the knee would be considered to be endorsing a BLM, a ‘political movement’.
He mentioned England’s friendly with Germany in 1938, describing how officials convinced players including Sir Stanley Matthews to ignore their concerns about taking part in a Nazi salute by reassuring them it was a ‘formal gesture of courtesy’, not an endorsement of the regime.
The players ‘reluctantly’ agreed, Mr Clarke-Smith noted, adding: ‘The point here is that regardless of the original intention, the mixing of politics and football had disastrous consequences. Symbolism means a lot, both in football and wider society, and we must think carefully about how it is used.’
Read more: ‘Mixing politics and football had disastrous consequences’: MP compares England team taking the knee to national side’s infamous Nazi salute in 1938 – as Laurence Fox blasts ‘millionaire woke babies protesting inequality on £200,000-a-week’