I was never a fan of the taking a knee “protest” that started around a year ago to highlight racism in football.
My opinion was that it was a hollow gesture that would do nothing to combat racism across the world.
A footballer taking a knee would not stop an immature 15 year old in Darlington racially abusing a footballer on Instagram thinking it is “banter”.
It would not stop someone in Nigeria or India racially abusing players on social media, using intolerant language that is acceptable in their countries.
And it would not stop an Eastern European footballer racially abusing a black player.
Hollow gestures do not change the world. Education does.
Taking the knee made it seem like racism was a problem in English football. A problem in England. That was simply untrue.
The UK is one of the most tolerant countries in the world.
There have been countless studies and reports commissioned by all sorts of bodies including the EU which always show the same thing. The UK is one of the least racist countries in the world.
The racism problem in the UK is always blown out of proportion.
What to see real racism? Go to Eastern Europe, to China or Russia. Go to India or visit many African nations.
In many of these countries, racism is rife. People of a different ethnic background are routinely discriminated. Treated as less individuals.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup stadiums are getting built by slaves imported from South Asia and East Africa.
Over in China we see the genocide of Uighur Muslims. And you only have to see the abuse of Glen Kamara for Rangers against Slavia Prague to see the problems Eastern Europe face.
And Africa is a whole different kettle of fish, where a lot of the abuse and discrimination is based on even finer ethnic groups and religion.
In the UK, racism still exists, but it is not a huge problem in comparison to those mentioned.
Taking a knee was always just a gesture. It does nothing to change the views of people in Eastern Europe, in Asia and Africa, China or Russia.
The only thing that will change those peoples views is better education. But that has to come from the governments of those countries. And the feeling is they have no interest to change things as the leaders share the views of their citizens.
Wilfried Zaha highlighted how pointless taking a knee is last week.
His key point was that taking a knee had become something players now “just do” and the meaning behind it had now been lost.
He also mentioned the lack of action.
What is the point in a footballer taking a knee if social media continue to allow racist posts appear on their networks? If they fail to take action?
What is the point of taking a knee when it is a 12-year-old that can not be named who is racially abusing Zaha? The youngster will be arrested but unlikely to see any further action be taken.
What is the point in taking a knee when many of the countries where the racist comments come from have much deeper, racial issues?
In the game between Rangers and Celtic, both sides “took a stand” rather than a knee. But this again risks becoming a hollow gesture of Slavia Prague go unpunished for the behaviour of their players and fans.
The Instagram post from Slavia Prague racially abusing Kamara sums up the situation.
Taking a knee will make new difference to these people when racism is so ingrained within their society.
We need action, not gestures.
We need the FA, UEFA and FIFA to give out long bans to players that racially abuse others. I would go as far as saying life bans.
You racially abuse an opponent, you are banned from football for life.
We need social media companies to do more.
On social media, racism is not just aimed at footballers. It’s aimed at musicians, actors, influencers and the common man. By Twitter or Facebook saying they will “work with football” shows they are choosing to ignore the problem of racism on their platforms. They are attempting to shift the blame to football.
And then we have societies.
We will only see racism across the world eradicated if all countries, all societies follow the like of the UK in education and punishment.
It is all well and good the UK being a tolerant, accepting country but there are hundreds of nations out there who have no interest in becoming so.
The combination of intolerant countries and social media creates the toxic mix.
Twitter has made the world a smaller place. 20 years ago Bulgaria’s racism problem is people remain in Bulgaria. But now we see those racists on social media tweeting abuse to someone in England.
Sadly I do not think racism will ever be eradicated. There will always be someone in every society that is hateful.
Footballers taking the knee was never going to change racist views across the world. Only education and real action will do that.
Time to stop taking the knee and force the authorities to take action.