Premier League Captains Plan Show of Support for Black Lives Matter

LEEDS, England — The captains of England’s leading soccer clubs have informed the Premier League that players intend to demonstrate their support for the Black Lives Matter movement when the competition resumes play next week.

The issue was raised on Tuesday during a regular conference call with the captains of all 20 Premier League clubs, part of an effort by the league to maintain a direct dialogue with its players over the course of the coronavirus lockdown and a way for the captains to convey their squads’ views to the authorities.

The league is scheduled to return to action in a week, with the first two games played on Wednesday, before a full round of matches the following weekend.

The latest meeting focused on which causes the players believed should be emphasized, either as part of the pregame pageantry or in messages rolling along advertising hoardings or emblazoned on banners.

The captains — led by Héctor Bellerín of Arsenal, Seamus Coleman of Everton and Troy Deeney of Watford — suggested going beyond a display of gratitude to the National Health Service and to Britain’s other key workers.

At the meeting, the players said that they also wanted to show their support for the protests that have swept the globe after the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer placed his knee on his neck for several minutes.

The Premier League has traditionally shied away from any gesture that might be considered political — in 2018, the Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, who is from Catalonia, was fined 20,000 pounds, or about $25,000, for wearing a yellow ribbon on his lapel in support of the region’s independence from Spain — but the organization is not expected to stand in the way of the players’ wishes.

National authorities have already been advised by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, that players showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement — or sending an anti-racism message — should not be punished.

In Germany, where the Bundesliga returned to competitive play last month, players and teams have already shown solidarity with the protests: A number of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich players have warmed up in jerseys bearing slogans from the protests — including “No Justice, No Peace” — while Marcus Thuram, a Borussia Mönchengladbach forward, took a knee after scoring against Union Berlin.

Weston McKennie, an American midfielder who plays for Schalke, wore an armband demanding justice for Floyd.

In Britain, where tens of thousands have attended Black Lives Matter protests across the country in recent days, players from Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle have all taken a knee before training sessions.

The Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling — who had emerged as a powerful advocate on the issue of discrimination both within soccer and in society as a whole long before the latest round of protests — expressed the need to “implement change” in an interview with Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship news review program.

The protesters, Sterling said, “are trying to find a solution and a way to stop the injustice they are seeing, and they are fighting for their cause.”

The captains of the Premier League’s teams have made clear that they want to be able to express the same sentiment when they return to the field over the next 10 days.

Though it is not yet known what form that message will take — the Premier League is likely to offer the players a number of options — Bellerín, Coleman and Deeney were all particularly vocal during the meeting, stating their belief that soccer had a duty to make its voice heard on a social issue that matters so much not just to its fans, but also to its players.

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