by Bukamuso Sebata
[IMAGE: Daily Express. With its return, the Premier League has made a few changes to the players’ uniforms and is taking a stand with the “Black Lives Matter” movement]
The English Premier League resumed on the 17th of June after being suspended on March 13 due to the pandemic. The first two matches featured Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United and Manchester City facing Arsenal. Upon its return, the league had added a few changes to the team jerseys following the death of George Floyd.
[IMAGE: Sportstar – The Hindu. As the league returned, their support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement was on full display.]
Players’ names were replaced with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to show their unwavering support for the movement. The players’ jerseys will also feature an NHS badge in appreciation to the healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. “Black Lives Matter” replaced the players’ names for the first twelve games. The patches on their arms with the slogan will be kept for the remainder of the season. The “Black Lives Matter” patches stand in solidarity with the protests around the world surrounding racial injustice, inequality and following the death of George Floyd.
When the referees blew the whistle signalling the start of the first matches in months, everyone on the field, including the referees, took a knee for several seconds before rising in unison and beginning their games. Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have also expressed their unwavering support for the movement. Rashford has called on people to come together, adding in a post on Instagram “people are hurting and people need answers. Black Lives Matter."
The protests sparked a movement in the football world. Marcus Thuram knelt after scoring a goal against Union Berlin. Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho took off his shirt after scoring, revealing a “Justice for George Floyd” t-shirt. The Premier League said it will support players kneeling before or during matches in honour of Floyd’s memory, life, and in solidarity with the global marches against racism.
[IMAGE: AS English – Dario AS. Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho reveals his “Justice For Floyd” t-shirt after scoring]
All twenty clubs of the league released a joint statement: “We, the players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for all, regardless of their color or creed. This symbol is a sign of unity from all players, all staff, all clubs, all match officials and the Premier League _ #blacklivesmatter #playerstogether”.
FIFA has eased its regulations on not allowing any form or act of politics on the pitch. Section 5 of the IFAB laws prohibit players from displaying support for any political group or event but the organisation has softened their position following the death of Floyd and the protests surrounding it. The organisation said it understands the “depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many followers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case”.
[IMAGE: premierleague.com. The “No Room For Racism” campaign was launched to tackle racism, discrimination, social injustice and inequality in the League and to show support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement]
The “No Room For Racism” campaign, launched in 2019 to tackle racism in stadiums and in the league, has been reinforced and doubled-down on recently to show the Premier League’s support and understanding of the racial movement: “The Premier League is making it clear there is No Room For Racism as we continue to work with all our clubs, fans, the FA, EFL, PFA, Kick It Out and the police to tackle discrimination across all areas of football. The league’s No Room For Racism campaign demonstrates its continued commitment to equality and diversity, using the power and popularity of the League to oppose racism in football”.