Wilfried Zaha: Crystal Palace forward is first Premier League player not to take a knee

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player not to take a knee before kick-off.

Zaha stood before Saturday’s win over West Brom, an action he hopes will highlight that more needs to be done to fight racism.

In a statement, the 28-year-old said he “will continue to stand tall”.

Zaha said in February that he would no longer follow the initiative adopted in the Premier League last season.

Premier League clubs started taking a knee before kick-off to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which rose to prominence following the death of George Floyd in the United States in May 2020.

“My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now,” Zaha said.

“There is no right or wrong decision, but for me personally I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and at the moment it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse.”

The game against West Brom was Zaha’s first opportunity to make his point after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic says he is fully behind the stance that has been adopted by his team-mate.

“I support him 100%,” said Milivojevic. “We are taking a knee to show an example so, when kids see, they are asking why are players doing that. Wilfried is going further, he did it the other way, and I respect him 100%.”

Palace manager Roy Hodgson added: “I would be surprised if there is anyone who has suggested for one minute that he is doing it because he doesn’t care. He’s doing it because he cares perhaps too much.

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“He is making a strong statement. He doesn’t think the things we are doing are having the same impact as they were at the beginning.”

Ivory Coast international Zaha joins Championship clubs Derby, Bournemouth and Brentford in no longer taking part in the gesture pre-match.

Earlier this season, Queens Park Rangers also stopped the gesture after director of football Les Ferdinand said its impact had “been diluted”.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said taking the knee will continue until the end of the season but there will be fresh talks with players over the most effective way to move forward.

BBC

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