Premier League stars backed to protest George Floyd death as Roy Hodgson says player power vital

Dan Kilpatrick, Jack Rosser
REUTERS

Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson says footballers have “enormous power” to influence and has backed players to join protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis last week.

The FA have promised to take a “common sense” approach to sanctioning players who use their platforms to protest, paving the way for a spate of activism when the season resumes.

The Chelsea and Liverpool squads took a knee during training this week, while Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and DeAndre Yedlin are among the players to issue powerful anti-racism messages on social media, as organisations across the sporting world joined the #BlackOutTuesday campaign yesterday.

Floyd died while being detained by police in Minneapolis, sparking a wave of riots and protests in the US. One officer has been charged with murder.

Bobby Barnes, deputy chief executive of the players’ union, the PFA, last night told Standard Sport he expects “more [players] will follow” in protesting and urged white players to join in, saying “the most powerful messages that are those that come out jointly."

Hodgson told Standard Sport: “I don’t think we should be trying to stop players speaking out on issues of such importance. With the diversity we have and the amount of black people we have in our area who obviously feel enormously strongly about how George Floyd died, it would be very strange if players didn’t have a view.

"I have no qualms about a player explaining what he thinks about it. It is good that players are taking the initiative, because I am pretty certain it helps the cause enormously.

“Football in our country, is very big in [making a difference in] that respect. The world of sport has always been very important, as has the world of showbiz, the music industry. These people have got enormous power and when they speak they affect at lot of people.

“I am sure that the protesters in America who are trying to show that there is an enormous injustice will appreciate the support.”

Players are normally sanctioned for activism which could be deemed political but, in line with guidance from Fifa, the FA have said they will use “common sense” and consider the “context” of any on-field protests.

In contrast, German football’s governing body, the DFB, could press ahead with sanctions against Jadon Sancho, Achraf Hakimi, Marcus Thuram and Weston McKennie for protesting during this weekend’s Bundesliga fixtures.

Sancho and Hakimi both revealed T-shirts with ‘Justice for George’ messages during Borussia Dortmund’s match against Paderborn, while Thuram took a knee after scoring for Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke’s American midfielder McKennie wore a ’Justice for George’ armband.

DFB vice-president Rainer Koch confirmed that investigations were ongoing to determine whether the quartet should face sanctions.

Fifa president Gianna Infantino last night made clear the world governing body would oppose any sanctions on the quartet, saying: “For the avoidance of doubt, in a Fifa competition the recent demonstrations of players in Bundesliga matches would deserve applause, not a punishment.”

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin also indicated that his organisation would overlook protests when the Champions League and Europa League resume in August.

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