Wilfried Zaha refuses to take a knee, demanding more action against racism.
Wilfried Zaha refuses to take a knee, demanding more action against racism. Image Credit: Reuters

Wilfried Zaha has become the first English Premier League player to stop taking the knee against racism.

On Saturday, the Crystal Palace attacker refused to kneel ahead of his side's match against West Brom, demanding more meaningful action be taken against racism.

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

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“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," he added.

Last season, the EPL introduced kneeling on match days to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in America.

Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the American national anthem in the National Football League (NFL) in 2016, as a symbol of resistance against police brutality. Kaepernick disrupted the status quo and was forced to become an NFL pariah because of his stance against injustice.

Colin Kaepernick instigated a global movement by 'taking a knee'
Colin Kaepernick instigated a global movement by 'taking a knee' Image Credit: AP

Zaha says he respects any player who continues to kneel.

“I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes at the Premier League and other authorities to make change and I fully respect that and everyone involved. I also full respect my teammates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee,” he added.

“As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people abuse others online – not just footballers.

Wilfried Zaha.
Wilfried Zaha. Image Credit: Instagram

“I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch.

“I will continue to stand tall.”

Last year, a 12-year-old boy was arrested in the UK in connection with racist threats that he sent to Zaha via Instagram.

“How is a 12-year-old even thinking about that? Where has that hate come from? I understand he’s a twelve-year-old. And it’s sad that it’s a 12-year-old, but you got to be held accountable for the things that you say,” Zaha said.

“The stuff that you said to me, ain’t just ‘Yeah, you Black this...’ This is Ku Klux Klan. I didn’t even know about that stuff at the age of 12… Later on, I found out that same 12-year-old boy contacted like three other players, racially abused three other players in my team as well,” he added.

In an interview with CNN after the incident, Zaha said he had to remove Twitter from his phone.

“For black footballers for instance, being on Instagram is not even fun anymore,” Zaha said.

“I’m scared to even look up my direct messages anymore. It could be filled with anything ... I don’t even have Twitter on my phone anymore because it’s almost certain that you’re going to get some sort of abuse, especially after games and stuff, because it happens so freely,” he added.

Zaha previously said that the action of taking a knee is “degrading”. The Ivory Coast national player last month announced he would no longer where Black Lives Matter on his kit.

“Why must I kneel down for you to show that we matter,” he said told ‘On the Judy’ podcast. “Why must I even wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my top to show you that we matter? This is all degrading stuff.

“When people constantly want to get me to do Black Lives Matter talks and racial talks and I’m like, I’m not doing it just so you can put ‘Zaha spoke for us.’ Like a tick box, basically.

“I’m not doing any more because unless things change, I’m not coming to chat to you just for the sake of it, like all the interviews I’ve done.”