The England captain, Steph Houghton, has revealed that she and her Manchester City teammates will show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by taking a knee before the Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday. Emma Hayes’s side will do likewise and the gesture looks likely to continue when the Women’s Super League season starts.
Houghton is among a number of leading players who hope the WSL will follow the Premier League’s example and make kneeling before kick-offs routine.
“We’ve been taking a knee as a team over pre-season and we’ll certainly be doing it on Saturday; it’s important,” the City centre-half said. “We’ve had conversations as a team about how comfortable we are with it and we want to support it.”
The Chelsea and England forward Fran Kirby said: “It’s definitely our intention to take the knee on Saturday. It’s something I know myself and a lot of the girls are very passionate about.”
Two of Houghton’s former England teammates, Reading’s Danielle Carter and Anita Asante of Aston Villa, spoke in favour of identical action at WSL matches, which start the following Saturday. .
Carter, who serves as an FA councillor said “100% we should take the knee”, adding: “We’ve been doing it for our pre-season games so I can’t see why doing it at the start of WSL games would be a problem or anyone would object. I’m expecting everyone to be taking knees before at least the first game of the season.”
Carter and company will not experience any opposition from the FA. In a statement the ruling body said: “The FA will support any player who wishes to take a stand against discrimination in a respectful manner; this includes taking a knee.”
Asante is intent on emulating her male counterparts. “If we’re in line with the Premier League then I don’t see how anyone would feel that’s a bad decision,” she said. “I think it would be a great opportunity to show that, alongside the men, we collectively support this issue. And the athletes’ voice in this matters.”
Asante would endorse a blanket mandate to take a knee. “A collective decision kind of takes the pressure away from the players,” she said. “It’s a very big issue and one that has to be approached collectively. Ultimately it’s about human rights and, if we share those values, then it’s one we can all buy into.
“Showing solidarity sends an important message – but ultimately it [taking a knee] is a small part of a bigger goal. We have to do more in terms of how we impart direct action that will create the kind of change athletes and society want to see.”
Brighton’s Victoria Williams shares similar sentiments. “Why would I not support people who are oppressed?” she said. “I think that, as professional sportswomen we have a responsibility to support people and engage change.”