England players booed for taking a knee despite plea by team

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England’s Raheem Sterling, left, takes the knee before the start of the Euro 2020 soccer championship group D match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

LONDON (AP) — Sections of fans at Wembley Stadium booed England players for taking a knee before the European Championship game against Croatia on Sunday.

The boos, which could be heard over those fans applauding, came despite pleas from the team to respect the anti-racism gesture. Croatia’s players did not take a knee as expected ahead of the Group D game, which England won 1-0.

“Everybody should cheer for England,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a short time later at the G7 Summit, while not saying if he would take a knee if he was a player.

Some England fans claim taking a knee is a political act but the English Football Association said again ahead of the team’s opening Euro 2020 match that the gesture is important to them and should be respected. There had been booing at England’s two warmup games for the tournament that were played in Middlesbrough.

“They are doing this as a mechanism of peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice and inequality,” the FA said in a statement to fans. “This is personally important to the players and the values the team collectively represents. This gesture of unity and fighting against inequality can be traced back as far as the 18th century.

“It is not new, and English football has made it very clear that it does not view this as being aligned to a political organisation or ideology. There can be no doubt as to why the players are taking the knee and what it represents in a footballing context.”

The jeering was by some fans who also chanted “No surrender” during the national anthem. That’s a dated reference to the conflict endured for generations that saw Britain hit by terrorist attacks from the Irish Republic Army.

Croatia’s national anthem was also booed by some of the 22,500 fans allowed into Wembley, which could lead to the country’s soccer association being fined by UEFA.

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