Fifa president Gianni Infantino believes players who protest on the pitch about the death of George Floyd “deserve an applause and not a punishment”, while England’s Football Association (FA) has suggested it is unlikely to sanction any anti-discrimination gestures.
England and Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho, who scored a hat-trick in his side’s 6-1 win over Paderborn on Sunday, was booked after lifting his match shirt to reveal a ‘Justice For George Floyd’ message on an undershirt.
It has been reported that the German Football Association (DFB) is considering disciplinary action against Sancho, as well as others, for a technical breach of the game’s laws. Under Law 4 Section 5, players are not supposed to have slogans, statements or images that could be deemed political on their kit or other equipment.
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However, Fifa has urged governing bodies applying those laws to “use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events”.
Infantino said: “For the avoidance of doubt, in a Fifa competition the recent demonstrations of players in Bundesliga matches would deserve an applause and not a punishment. We all must say no to racism and any form of discrimination. We all must say no to violence. Any form of violence.”
The death of George Floyd, a black American who was killed when a white police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis last week, has provoked demonstrations and condemnation in the United States and the wider world.
Footballers in England are unlikely to face any disciplinary action for taking the knee or other peaceful anti-discrimination protests if matches are able to resume this month.
The FA said in a statement that it “strongly condemns discrimination of any kind and has endeavoured to ensure that football in England is both diverse and inclusive in recent years.
“Where any behaviours or gestures on the pitch that may constitute a breach of the Laws of the Game have to be assessed, they would be reviewed on a case by case basis with a common sense approach and understanding of their context.
“The power of football can break down barriers across communities and we remain deeply committed to removing all forms of discrimination from across the game we all love.”
It is understood that taking a knee in the manner in which Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram did would be unlikely to attract any sort of sanction. But taking a knee in a way which could be viewed as provocative, perhaps doing so deliberately in front of someone who has previously been charged with or found guilty of a racism-related offence, may warrant further action. NFL star Colin Kaepernick popularised the kneeling gesture in 2016.
Human rights group Amnesty International says it would “applaud” any athlete making a gesture of solidarity on this matter, including opting against competing in the US.
Its UK director Kate Allen said: “Numerous British sporting figures already speak out about racism and other human rights issues here in the UK, so it’s likely some will be moved to say something about the appalling scenes in the USA.
“As we saw with Liverpool football players this week, taking a knee is just one of the many things sporting figures can do if they want to express their anger at US police violence against people of colour.
“Whether UK athletes go to the United States – or anywhere else – will always be a matter for them, but from black power salutes in the sixties through to Colin Kaepernick’s famous gesture in 2016, sporting stars have shown they can make important human rights interventions.”
The chair of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, Sanjay Bhandari, said Premier League players taking the knee as a mark of protest would be “a powerful image”.
Chelsea and Newcastle players were among those who took the knee during training sessions on Tuesday, while a large number of sports stars and clubs joined the #blackouttuesday movement on social media.