The Manchester City and England left-back Demi Stokes has stressed the need for players to keep taking the knee, saying they are “sick” of being racially abused.
Footballers have been making the anti-racism protest before matches for more than a year since the murder of George Floyd in the US in May 2020. Critics of the gesture, which has on occasion prompted boos from the stands, say it has political overtones but Stokes believes players must “keep the ball rolling”.
Stokes most recently took the knee alongside her fellow players before City’s Women’s Super League derby match against Manchester United on Saturday at Leigh Sports Village, where the reaction from the crowd was applause. She was part of the Great Britain team that took the knee at the Tokyo Olympics and there is every expectation players will do the same before England’s Women’s World Cup qualifiers this month against Northern Ireland at Wembley and Latvia away.
Stokes said taking the knee is “not about politics”, adding: “I think it’s important we keep the ball rolling – and not just because it’s Black History Month. It’s been done for over a year now and that’s good, that’s what we want to see, we want to see it weekly because it is those reminders.
“People might boo, and that’s why we’ll keep doing it. It’s bigger than us, it’s bigger than just football. It’s something we’re trying to tackle as individuals, as a team, as a league. I think it’s important you still do it, even if it is tough, even if it is uncomfortable.
“People saying, ‘I’m sick of it, I’m sick of hearing about it’ – well, we’re sick of getting abuse, of hearing things in the news. Footballers are sick of being racially abused. We want to remind you that there is a problem and it needs to be tackled, and that’s our way of helping and propelling it forward.”