- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2021

Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player to not kneel before the game since the demonstration began last season, citing continual abuse toward Black people while saying the gesture has lost its original meaning.

Zaha opted against kneeling ahead of Saturday’s match against West Brom, and he’s been outspoken in recent weeks regarding the policy. Players and officials in the Premier League have knelt ahead of matches since George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis in May 2020.

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

“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 fully respect my teammates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.

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

“I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall.”

In February, Zaha appeared on the “On the Judy” podcast and explained how he felt kneeling before games can be “degrading.”

“Why must I kneel down for you to show that we matter?” Zaha said on the 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.”

Zaha, who has played 21 games this season and has scored nine goals and added two assists, also plays for the Ivory Coast national team.

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