The Ivorian winger feels a message being sent by leading sportspeople has become diluted, with plenty still suffering online abuse
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player to stop taking the knee before fixtures, with the Ivory Coast international of the opinion that an anti-racism message is being lost.
Leading sportspeople have been making public shows of defiance against discrimination of any kind since the summer of 2020 – when competitive action resumed on the back of a coronavirus-enforced break.
Many are still pushing that cause, and Zaha remains fully committed to the fight, but online abuse has continued and there have been suggestions that a fresh approach is required.
What did Zaha do?
The 28-year-old had stated during an injury absence at Palace that he intended to stay on his feet when a knee was taken on his return to action.
He was as good as his word in a meeting with West Brom on Saturday – his first start since shaking off a knock.
What has been said?
A statement from Zaha explaining his actions read: “My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks.
“There is no right or wrong decision, but I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and whether we kneel or stand, some of us continue to receive abuse..
“I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes at the Premier League and other authorities to make change, and I fully respect that, and everyone involved.
“I also fully respect my team-mates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.
“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.”
The bigger picture
Zaha is not the first to stop taking the knee in English football, with similar questions being asked by others within the domestic game.
Championship sides Brentford and Bournemouth revealed in February that they would no longer be taking part in a pre-match routine that has become commonplace.