Footballers have my support if they take the knee

England's Raheem Sterling takes a knee prior to kick-off during the UEFA Euro 2020 round of 16 match

England's Raheem Sterling takes the knee. - Credit: PA

I recently saw the Torquay United team taking the knee before a game in an unusual way.

I then realised that they weren’t taking the knee but stretching their hamstrings.

But should our multi-racial heroes at Plainmoor follow England’s lead and take the knee? 

When the England team announced that they would take the knee before every Euro game I was uncertain.

Was this just following an extreme left-wing movement in America where there is a different culture and history? 

I then heard Gareth Southgate explain the idea.

This was not a part of a worldwide political Black Lives Matter movement. It was simply a protest against racism which is still a problem here in the UK.

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It is unlikely that our Premiership players are Marxists reading Das Capital at half time.

And, since taking the knee is a protest against racism then booing taking the knee must be in support of racism.

Anyone is entitled to believe that taking the knee is the wrong way to oppose racism but then they should just keep quiet.

The black England players know racism at first hand.

In the last World Cup, one of the player’s mothers was abused on the street and told to “go home” when her son was playing for England.  

After England lost the penalty shootout in the finals of the Euros I was gutted but did not notice that the players who missed the penalties were all black.

Sadly, some experienced former England stars such as Rio Ferdinand immediately realised what would happen. He had experience.

The players received horrific racist abuse.

I then moved from being uncertain about taking the knee to being certain that it was the right thing. 

 In the recent World Cup qualifier against Hungary there was, again, hideous racist behaviour from the terraces but Gareth Southgate was not prepared to only criticise the Hungarian supporters.

He pointed out that such racism still exists in England.  

Possibly things have improved.

Jack Leslie was a Plymouth Argyle player who was called up to the England team in 1925 only to be told that it was a mistake.

“They must have forgot I was a coloured boy,” he later told a journalist.

No black player was selected for England until Viv Anderson in 1978.

It has now been proposed to erect a statue of Jack Leslie in Plymouth.  

As a white middleclass man, I only have second-hand experience of racism which can be subtle.

One of the doctors in my practice was from Newton Abbot, went to a local school and a British university.

As he was from an Asian heritage occasionally patients would ask: “Where is he from?”

I enjoyed saying Newton Abbot and watching their response.

In Torquay, we did not have a large ethnically diverse population.

Our non-white patients were often professionals working at Torbay Hospital or, occasionally, Torquay United players.  

In the police station I only saw one episode of racism.

As one person was being booked in he looked at another prisoner, who was not white, and made a racist comment.

The sergeant booking him in immediately added the racist offence to the list.

And, contrary to the views of the racists, Britain has always been multi-racial.

Some of the Romans were from sub-Saharan Africa.

The Roman Empire was horrifically prejudiced against anyone who was not a citizen of Rome regardless of the colour of the skin.

In Georgian times there were several black English people living in London.

For many years historians were puzzled. Where did they go? Recent DNA analysis showed that they did not go anywhere.

Their descendants are still in London but, because all the recent ancestors were white, they are now white.  

Whether Torquay United take the knee is a personal choice. I have not heard of any other teams in the National League taking the knee.

But, if it feels right to the England team, they have my support.

Is it too much to hope that one day is taking the knee is unnecessary because no one suffers racist abuse?