In early March DDU wrote an open letter to the FA expressing our concern over its ambivalent stance regarding BLM and players taking the knee (you can read our original letter here). We received a prompt reply that fails to address any substantial points and shows a lack of foresight regarding the impact its policy could have for all football fans (you download the FA’s response to DDU letter here). The FA claims to support BLM’s anti-discriminatory message, without offering a view on how it distinguishes between a liberal understanding of anti-racism that most people support, and the politically radical version of racism/anti-racism at the heart of BLM. Below is our letter in response:
Dear Mr XXXX,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to our letter. We appreciate the outlining of your position as well as the motivations behind it. However, we as an organisation believe these positions raise further questions.
As your response makes clear, the FA has made it a priority to amplify its anti-racist efforts. Given the instances of racism reported in English stadiums and the racial abuse minority players often endure from social media, this is understandable. Yet in choosing to align with the American Black Lives Matter movement, your organisation risks a loss of focus in its anti-racism efforts on this side of the Atlantic. African American history, demographics and dynamics around law enforcement are very different from our UK context. When the latter is acknowledged, one must ask, what exactly does the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have to do with English football? And why exactly, is the now solemn ritual of ‘taking the knee’ something that requires the fans’ coerced respect?
As we know, by kneeling, England players continue to engage in the mimicking of an American Football player for whom activism is, arguably, more important than sport. However, what isn’t as well known is that Colin Kaepernick has used the kneeling phenomenon to promote his own politically revolutionary world view. (1) Under the tutelage of the Communist Angela Davis, not only does Kaepernick wish to rid the world of functioning police forces, but he also wishes to also abolish prisons. Under what moral justification do we separate ‘taking the knee’ from its inspiration?
In a similar fashion, your wish to separate the Black Lives Matter movement from its destructive political aims may appear sensible. Yet at no point has the FA or anyone else clearly explained what it is that distinguishes the movement from the political organisation. In proclaiming ‘black lives matter’ is one opposing Black Lives Matter? Does the lower-case sentiment serve to counteract the upper-case slogan? It’s worth considering this thought experiment: if the cultural climate was one of patriotism, could the FA envisage attempting to separate the sentiment ‘Britain first’ from the political organisation?
This semantic confusion is exactly what the ‘Black Lives Matter’ meme is designed to create. You may seek to distance yourselves from the movement yet in doing so, you are effectively strengthening it. Such linguistic traps have been a hallmark of revolutionary movements historically and as with previous movements, confrontation and agitation are essential to further the cause. In this case, it is easy to envisage that fans’ vocal rejection of players’ perceived support of BLM will be met with, ‘This is why we need to take the knee’. And voila, racial tension ratchets up.
We strongly encourage the FA to not engage in this game of obfuscation and tripwire.
Instead, a commitment to abandon the BLM rhetoric and symbolism in favour of a renewal of the ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign is surely the correct next step for the FA to take as the country approaches the European Championships and the England Scotland clash: a time where the country looks to come together and celebrate the end of a prolonged lockdown. As you will be aware, clubs such as Millwall, Middlesbrough, Bournemouth and now Derby have adapted their stance to something resembling this.
In conclusion, we would like to reiterate that by choosing to continue down this path of support for the Black Lives Matter movement or sentiment, the FA will not serve to unite the country, its football fans or tackle racial discrimination. At best it can only deepen division; at worst, create divides where they did not exist before.
Football is one of the very best ways we have as a country in making race irrelevant, at least in popular culture even if not in every walk of life. In the highs and low of the game, whether playing or watching, we engage in the very essence of what it is to be human – something that is far bigger than our designated racial ‘group’. England’s successful football team are a testament to what a post-racial, unified country looks like. Please don’t throw this away. Please don’t divide us.
Don’t Divide Us