London (AFP) – England defender Tyrone Mings insists his team will not give up kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at Euro 2020 after Britain’s Home Secretary criticised their “gesture politics”.
Gareth Southgate’s side have been booed by England fans for taking the knee in their last three matches, including Sunday’s 1-0 win against Croatia in their first game of the tournament.
The gesture has been used by Premier League teams since last year following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States.
Home Secretary Priti Patel recently joined the heated debate over the issue when she said: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics, to a certain extent.”
Asked if England fans were right to boo, she added: “That’s a choice for them, quite frankly.”
England manager Gareth Southgate made it clear before the European Championship that his players would continue to knee regardless of the public reaction.
And Aston Villa defender Mings made it clear no amount of political pressure or negative reactions from the stands would stop them.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion. The Home Secretary is one of many, many people that oppose us taking the knee or refuse to defend it,” Mings told reporters on Tuesday.
“We spoke and she once invited me onto a Zoom call and seemed so interested and engrossed in players’ point of view and what we could do to tackle these issues.
“We have our own set of beliefs and what we feel we can do to help as players that can be influential and stand up for what we believe in.”
While there was jeering as England took the knee at Wembley on Sunday, it was drowned out by cheers from a larger section of the 22,500 crowd.
That was a contrast to the more audible display of dissent from fans when the kneeling took place prior to England’s friendlies against Austria and Romania in Middlesbrough before the tournament.
– ‘Positive reaction’ –
“Understandably, when you have such strong beliefs, there will be opposition to that,” Mings said.
“We spoke about trying to educate or inform the minority who refuse to acknowledge why we are taking the knee and want to boo it.
“At the same time, in Wembley there was a hugely positive reaction to us taking the knee as well, and I don’t think that should be overshadowed by the minority that refuse to accept what the reasons are or don’t agree with it.”
Mings would have preferred to focus on his uplifting start to the tournament after the centre-back’s composed display helped keep Croatia at bay.
The 28-year-old is playing due to Harry Maguire’s slow recovery from ankle ligament damage.
Maguire is not certain to return for Friday’s match against Scotland, but Mings warned the Manchester United star he is ready to fight for his place.
“It’s a little bit bizarre bearing in mind how much credit Harry has in the bank and what a fantastic defender he is, but at the same time there is absolutely competition for places,” Mings said.
“He is a person I take a lot of inspiration from, so to be mentioned in the same breath is a compliment in itself.”
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