Rashford takes knee and raises fist in Black Lives Matter solidarity

Marcus Rashford takes the knee and raises his fist in solidarity with Black Lives Matter as he returns to the pitch for the first time since defeating Boris Johnson in school meals campaign

  • Manchester United and Tottenham players took the knee prior to the Premier League fixture in London
  • Marcus Rashford led the gestures with a raised clenched fist in the centre circle as fellow players joined in
  • Comes in wake of his defeat of Boris Johnson on free school meals for children over the summer
  • Shirts also carried the printing of Black Lives Matter across the backs to show support for the movement 

Marcus Rashford was among the football stars to lead the show of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement on Friday night, as Manchester United faced Tottenham in the return of the Premier League.

Football has thrown its support behind the Black Lives Matter movement, backing the cause strongly after the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis added powerful momentum to the campaign.

United star Rashford was picked up by the cameras in the centre circle of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in north London, taking the knee and raising a clenched fist above his head as fellow team-mates joined him.

On the opposing side England captain Harry Kane followed suit, replicating the gesture as all players and staff shared a moment kneeling on the turf before beginning the match.

Marcus Rashford was among the football stars to lead the show of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement on Friday night, taking to the centre of the field with a clenched fist

With a fist raised above his head the 22-year-old threw his support behind the movement, on the back of a busy week in which he forced the Government into a u-turn on free school meals

Prior to the match Rashford and his team mates had warmed up wearing t-shirts which read: ‘United against racism’

England captain Harry Kane also mirrored the gesture, as players and staff came together to share the moment of support

Boris Johnson waded into the Swing Low Sweet Chariot race row this afternoon, declaring it should not be banned ‘because no-one knows the words’.

The PM admitted he did not know all the lyrics to the rugby anthem and called for those complaining to explain what they were.

Instead he he wanted people to stop focusing on ‘symbols of discrimination’ and look at the wider picture of racial equality.

He said: ‘Nobody as far as I understand it seems to know the words. Before we start complaining about Swing Low Sweet Chariot I’d like to know what the rest of the words are… ‘’Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home’’, then it all dies out.

‘How does it go on? I certainly don’t think there should be any sort of prohibition on singing that.’

Speaking to Sky News he pledged to do anything he could to make sure BLM campaigners were heard and listened to.

Her added: ‘What people need to do is focus less on the symbols of discrimination – all these issues that people are now raising to do with statues and songs and so on – I can see why they are very emotive.

‘But what I want to focus on is the substance of the issue.

‘Yes of course I see that Black Lives Matter. We are going to address all the issues that we can…

‘We should be talking about success and the fact that young black kids are now doing far far better in some of the toughest subjects in schools.’

He echoed the thoughts of the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality who described banning the song as ‘Black people’s own culture being cancelled’.

Trevor Phillips, 66, condemned the Rugby Football Union for reviewing the popular sporting song, which rings through the stands at Twickenham, over its ties to the slave trade.

He pointed out the last people to try and ban it were Hitler and the Nazis back in 1939.

‘Black Lives Matter’ could also be seen on the back of each shirt in replace of the usual player names, a gesture which every Premier League club will be undertaking for the remaining fixtures this season.

Players took advantage of the warm-up period to stand in unity, as Rashford as his team-mates all wore black t-shirt with ‘United against racism’ emblazoned on the front. 

Earlier in the evening players from both Southampton and Norwich had acted in the same manner, showing solidarity before their 6pm kick-off. 

On Wednesday evening England striker Raheem Sterling was one of the players to repeat the action at the Etihad, before his Manchester City side went on to defeat Arsenal.

‘I see it as a massive step for the Premier League to allow something to happen,’ he said afterwards. 

‘It shows we’re going in the right direction. Little by little we’re seeing change, and I think that’s what black players and most of the rest of the country are hoping for.’ 

The Premier League looks set to continue the kneeling gestures before all matches, as the full run of top flight fixtures return following the league’s Project Re-start, after being halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rashford’s support of the movement comes after a busy week, in which he pulled off a victory over Prime Minister Boris Johnson after forcing the government into an embarrassing U-turn regarding the extension of free school meals for children over the summer.

The PM announced that around 1.3million children currently eligible for free lunches in England will get vouchers worth £15 a week that can be spent in supermarkets.

A spokesman for 22-year-old Rashford said: ‘Marcus thanked the Prime Minister for U-turning on a decision that could have been detrimental to the stability of families across the country.’

Downing Street said the £120million Covid Summer Food Fund was ‘one-off’ recognition of the struggles families faced as the coronavirus lockdown sends the economy into a tailspin. 

‘The Prime Minister fully appreciates the problems facing families across the UK during this difficult times,’ Mr Johnson’s spokesman said.

The climbdown followed a growing Tory revolt urging him to think again after rejecting the appeal from Rashford. The footballer told his legion of social media followers earlier: ‘We aren’t beaten yet’.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt was among those saying that the position would have to change, while education select committee chair Robert Halfon threatened to vote against the government in a Commons debate later.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey risked inflaming the situation by engaging in a Twitter spat with Rashford after he said children did not have access to showers.

Rashford hailed the news this afternoon, tweeting: ‘I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.’

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