Soccer players from the national teams of Poland and the Czech Republic remained standing prior to the kickoffs of their respective World Cup qualifiers earlier this week when their English and Welsh counterparts kneeled in a continuation of their support for the American Black Lives Matter movement.
The actions appeared to be in defiance of the political stance by several European teams and players, who joined U.S. sports counterparts last summer when competition in the various leagues restarted following the suspension of play due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
British teams have been particularly demonstrative in the protests, and both games Wednesday were played in Britain.
Former Polish national team player turned the country’s soccer federation president Zbigniew Boniek indicated the reasons for his team’s actions earlier this week in an interview with the Polish news outlet Sport.
''I do not know if we will kneel with the English,'' Boniek said in reference to Wednesday’s game at Wembley Stadium in London, according to the Daily Mail. ''So far, this topic has not appeared at the training camp. There were so many more important, more dangerous, that this is the last topic that interests us.''
Instead of kneeling, Polish players instead chose to point to a ''Respect'' badge sewn into the sleeves of their jerseys, part of the European football association’s campaign that ''everyone should be able to enjoy football.''
The move followed the scene in Cardiff, Wales, on Tuesday, when the Czech Republic players also pointed to their sleeve badges.
"The national team will take a neutral apolitical stance to certain topics that have been resonating in the sports environment,'' the Czech Football Association said in a statement on its website released prior to the game. "This namely concerns the Black Lives Matter (BLM) initiative, in which some players kneel before football matches.
"To express their support for the fight against racism and other displays of discrimination, xenophobia and antisemitism, the Czech national team will point to the UEFA Respect inscription on the left sleeve of their jerseys, referring to the UEFA campaign of the same name, before the match in Wales."
The demonstrations by the Czech and Polish players came in the same week in which Major League Baseball began its regular season on Thursday.
Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and several other professional leagues and college sports programs openly embraced Black Lives Matter’s campaign last summer following protests and riots that erupted across the United States following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Adam Silver, president of the NBA, which was among the most vocal supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, said in October that his league would remove its on-court advocacy for the season that is presently ongoing after experiencing low ratings for the first three games of the NBA Finals.
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