Les Ferdinand: Taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter 'will not bring change'

QPR players
QPR players took the knee prior to the final nine games last season, but have not done so this campaign

Queens Park Rangers director of football Les Ferdinand says the impact of taking a knee "has been diluted".

QPR and Coventry City did not carry out the gesture in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before their Championship match on Friday.

"The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge," Ferdinand said in a statement on the club website.external-link

"Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game - actions will."

Players, officials and staff at Premier League and English Football League games have been taking a knee pre-match since the 2019-20 season restarted in June in order to show their support for the movement for racial equality.

American football player Colin Kaepernick started kneeling symbolically during the pre-game national anthem in the NFL in 2016, in protest at police violence against African-Americans in the United States.

The BLM movement and taking a knee has grown in prominence in the United Kingdom following the death of George Floyd in the US in May, which sparked protests around the world.

The 46-year-old, an unarmed black man, died after a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

QPR say they agreed with Coventry and match referee Steve Martin not to take a knee ahead of their meeting on Friday.

The EFL says its guidance on taking a knee has remained consistent and was provided to clubs prior to the resumption of fixtures in June, and prior to the start of the 2020-21 season.

The League says it is a matter for individual players and clubs to decide on whether to take a knee before a match, but it has to be agreed with their opponents and the match officials.


'A lot of people are being fooled' - Ferdinand's statement in full

"This should not be about QPR. Many clubs did not take the knee on the opening weekend, yet this was not reported.

"Taking the knee was very powerful but we feel that impact has now been diluted.

"In the same way 'Clap For Carers' was very emotional for us all, it got to a stage where it had run its natural course and the decision was rightly made to stop it.

"Does that mean we, as a nation, don't care or appreciate our NHS workers? Of course it doesn't.

"No-one is more passionate than me about this topic. I have spoken on the matter throughout my footballing life.

"I work for one of the most diverse football clubs in this country. A lot of people are being fooled out there.

"Recently, I took the decision not to do any more interviews on racism in football because the debate was going around in circles. People want a nice soundbite when something happens, but how many of the media who have criticised QPR over the past 48 hours genuinely want change?

"The taking of the knee has reached a point of 'good PR' but little more than that. The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.

"What are our plans with this? Will people be happy for players to take the knee for the next 10 years but see no actual progress made?

"Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game - actions will.

"Those media that have been quick to question us should be looking more inwardly. Our Under 18s were forced to abandon a game in August 2019 against AD Nervion FC due to racist abuse.

"More than 12 months on, Uefa refused to deal with the situation and the Spanish FA did nothing.

"What media coverage has been given to that? Not nearly as much as what has been granted to QPR not taking a knee.

"Don't judge us. Simple research and evidence will show you we are doing more than most. If you want change, judge yourselves."


QPR support cause 'in actions'

QPR chief executive Lee Hoos said the west London club was "the most diverse in the country" and that it fully supported its players, whether they took the knee or not.

"The EFL have stated that it is for the players and teams to make their own decisions on this, but as a matter of courtesy should let their opposition and the match referee know," he said.

"We will continue to support not just our players but all players who believe in greater social equality and how they wish to legitimately express those views.

"Our support is in our actions."

QPR players did not take a knee before their opening game of the season against Nottingham Forest but Friday's match at St Andrew's, which QPR lost 3-2, was televised - leading to criticism of Rangers for failing to carry out the gesture.

Rangers boss Mark Warburton said clubs needed more clarity whether they should continue to take a knee before games.

"We asked for guidance and the response has come back to us that it is down to each individual club," Warburton told BBC Radio London.

"There is too much uncertainty. You can't have this level of confusion at such an elite level of the game about an important issue.

"I was outraged when it was suggested to me that QPR had shown a lack of respect or a lack of awareness.

"Is this now a permanent feature? If that is the directive, tell us - no problem at all.

"I don't like to see token gestures. I like to see far more than that to introduce positive change."

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