John Barnes says Gareth Southgate ‘does not understand how complex racism is’ in Twitter rant on ‘taking the knee’ – as England fans call for team to copy Croatia by refusing to do gesture
Football legend John Barnes today claimed England manager Gareth Southgate ‘does not understand how complex racism is’ in a furious Twitter rant over taking the knee.
The former Three Lions star hit out at the national team boss over his insistence that the players will continue to make the gesture as they have a duty to ‘raise awareness’ over racism and inequality.
Southgate had asked for supporters not to boo the stance on the eve of his side’s final Euro 2020 warm-up game against Romania at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday, but a minority ignored the manager’s pleas.
Now Barnes, a star of England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in 1990, has taken to social media to speak out on the issue.
It comes after Croatia, the team’s opponents on Sunday, announced they would refuse to take the knee – sparking fresh calls from some fans for England to do the same.
Football legend John Barnes (pictured) today claimed England manager Gareth Southgate ‘does not understand how complex racism is’ in a furious Twitter rant over taking the knee
Southgate strengthened his stance on the issue by penning an open letter to England fans on Wednesday, insisting his players have a duty to ‘raise awareness and educate’ both on and off the field, amid the ongoing row
England’s Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips take a knee before the match with Romania last weekend
Responding to one follower, who praised Southgate’s position, Barnes wrote: ‘Of course he should support his players… but what does HE think… forget the players… that’s what an ally is… someone who believes HE’S doing the right thing, not one who follows the crowd, as the crowd may change direction.’
In another comment, he said: ‘I’m 100% behind Gareth to try to win the euros but he doesn’t understand how complex racism is and solutions are even more complicated and he and the team are being used by the system to DEFLECT from REAL inequality in the inner cities by SOLELY focusing and concentrating on football.’
He also reiterated his support for Wilfried Zaha, the Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast winger, who was the first in the Premier League not to make the gesture, insisting it had become ‘degrading’ and had lost all meaning.
Barnes added: ‘If Wilfried Zaha played for England and decided not to take the knee, would Southgate then say we wont take the knee and we’ll support him? What does GARETH think is the right thing to do? Take the knee, don’t take the knee, or just support what the players want?’
The row follows the revelation earlier today that Croatia’s national football team will not take a knee ahead of Sunday’s clash with England.
The sides will meet at Wembley Stadium, but Croatia will remain standing prior to kick off, as reported by the Athletic, with the country’s spokesman Tomislav Pacak indicating that it is not required by UEFA’s protocols.
A number of England fans then took to Twitter themselves to call for the Three Lions players to follow suit.
Some even declared they’d be supporting Croatia in the game, such was their feeling on the issue.
Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player not to take a knee before a fixture
Southgate strengthened his stance on the issue by penning an open letter to England fans on Wednesday, insisting his players have a duty to ‘raise awareness and educate’ both on and off the field, amid the ongoing row.
And he urged that supporters ‘must recognise the impact’ England stars ‘can have on society’.
It comes as the FA officials today blasted Boris Johnson for a ‘lack of support’ over the row – which threatens to overshadow Sunday’s opening fixture.
In an impassioned open letter, published on Players’ Tribune, Southgate said: ‘Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society.
‘We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.
‘I have never believed that we should just stick to football.’