FAQ: What Is 'Taking the Knee'? Why Is It Significant?

The Indian cricket team made headlines as they followed the gesture ahead of their game against Pakistan

3 min read

South Africa's star cricketer Quinton de Kock opted out his side's Twenty20 World Cup match against West Indies, after cited 'personal reasons' earlier this week. de Kock's decision came after Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced that all players will 'take the knee' before World Cup matches in United Arab Emirates to show their solidarity towards the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

On 24 October, the Indian cricket team made headlines as they followed the gesture ahead of their game against Pakistan – to show their support for the movement.

But what exactly does 'take the knee' convey? Why is it significant? Here's a short primer.


What is the meaning behind taking the knee?

'Taking the knee' is a symbolic statement against racism where an individual kneels upon one knee as against standing in attention. It has now become a global anti-racism gesture, as per The Scotsman.

More recently, people across the world have started take the knee in solidarity with 'Black Lives Matter' protests which was in response to the murder of 46-year-old African American George Floyd by a white policeman in the US in May 2020.

What is the origin of the gesture?

In1968, African American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists when they received their gold and bronze medals at that year’s Olympics Games, to spread awareness of the anti-Black racism.

According to BBC, during a match on 1 September 2016, American football player Colin Kaepernick took the knee during the national anthem – making it an instant newsworthy gesture.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color," Kaepernick said at that time.

The anti-racist statement has ever since gained prominence in protests and sports across the world.

However, kneeling has long been associated as a form of protest against racial discrimination.

US Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr took the knee in 1965 during a match in Selma, Alabama.
There is also a popular 18-century illustration pottered by English abolitionist Josiah Wedgwood, representing a shackled Black man kneeling down and depicting slavery.

The inscription featuring on the medallion reads – "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" The phrase became the watchword of the British Abolitionist Movement.

The Indian cricket team made headlines as they followed the gesture ahead of their game against Pakistan

Official Medallion of the British Abti-salvery society

Wikipedia Commons


Why has 'taking the knee' come to be associated with sporting events?

The practice gained popularity after the Euro 2020 tournament when England's team decided to take the knee before all their games. It was a statement of solidarity with the George Floyd protests.

Several other teams also joined in taking the knee, such as Belgium, Portugal, Wales, Scotland and Switzerland, as per a BBC report.

In the same tournament, after the England men's team lost the finals –Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho – were hurled racist abuses.

Following that, Britain's women's football team took the knee before every match during the Tokyo Olympics as a protest against the racial abuse of England's men football team. Female footballers from Chile and Japan, as well as Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado also took the knee.


Why are some people against taking the knee?

A number of Conservative politicians oppose taking the knee as they believe it to be a political statement. UK Education Minister Gillian Keegan accused it of "creating divisions", reported The Scotsman.

Some people argue that kneeling is more of a support for the organization 'Black Lives Matter', than the movement.

Quoting some footballers, The Conversation said that they felt “doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse”. For Queens Park Rangers director of football Les Ferdinand, taking the knee is a start but it alone “will not bring about change in the game – (only) actions will”.

(With inputs from BBC, The Independent, and The Scotsman)

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