Anchester City and England left-back Demi Stokes stressed the need for players to continue to kneel, saying they were “sick” of being victims of racial violence.
Footballers have been protesting racism before games for more than a year since the murder of George Floyd in the United States in May 2020.
Critics of the gesture, which has occasionally elicited boos from the stands, say it has political overtones, but Stokes believes players need to “keep the ball moving.”
Stokes recently dropped to one knee alongside her teammates ahead of City’s Women’s Super League derby with Manchester United on Saturday at Leigh Sports Village, where the crowd reaction was applause.
She was part of the Great Britain squad that made it to the Tokyo Olympics and the players are expected to do the same in the England Women’s World Cup qualifiers later this month. – here when they face Northern Ireland at Wembley, then face Latvia away.
Stokes, who says taking the knee is “not a matter of policy,” told the PA News Agency: “I think it’s important that we stay the course – and not just because it’s Black History Month.
“It’s been over a year now and it’s good, that’s what we want to see, we want to see it every week because it’s those callbacks.
“People might boo – and that’s why we’ll keep doing it. It’s bigger than us, it’s bigger than football. It’s something that we are trying to resolve as individuals, as a team, as a league, I think it’s important that you keep doing it, even if it’s difficult, even if it’s uncomfortable.
“People say, ‘I’m sick of it, I’m sick of hearing about it’ – well, we’re sick of being abused, of hearing things in the news. Footballers are fed up with racist abuse.
“We want to remind you that there is a problem and it needs to be addressed, and this is our way of helping it and moving it forward.”
Some players have decided to stop making the gesture, like Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who said last season that he would rather stand tall.
And Stokes said, “Everyone is different and people will argue in different ways. There are many different ways to advocate and support.
The 29-year-old is among those who have suffered racist abuse online – as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka endured after missing penalties in England’s Euro 2020 loss to Italy – and stressed that “there must be consequences for these things”.
“It’s not all the time, but I understand,” Stokes said. “I know it’s worse for the other players.
“You have to stand up for the people who are going through the worst. We don’t want people to feel alone and like they are not being supported.
“And there must be consequences for these things. It’s about educating people, because it’s too easy now – online all kinds of calls are made to you and nothing is done about it, and now obviously with emojis it’s become a problem.
“I think we are going in the right direction, but we are not where we need to be. It (social media) has to be better, to protect the players.
“I watch the game and I’m like, ‘Don’t miss your penalty, because I know what’s coming up’ and I think it’s horrible that the players have to worry about that when they play. I think things are happening, slowly, but we are not where we need to be.