Scottish football shows solidarity across the board before every game. What’s the rugby team’s excuse?
New Year Derby, Ibrox.
A handful of Rangers players take the knee, but the majority of their team-mates remain standing.
On the other side of the centre circle, most of the Celtic team are on their feet while a small minority take part in the gesture.
Imagine the outcry had this been the case. Not only would it have been front page news, we’d have been treated to politicians debating it at Holyrood.
Fortunately, players on both sides at Ibrox performed the gesture, as has been the case throughout the country this season.
Our game has myriad faults, but on this issue players have shown empathy, maturity and consistency.
It was a different story at Twickenham on Saturday.
A photograph taken prior to the match between England and Scotland’s rugby sides shows four members of the Scottish team taking the knee, while the majority of their colleagues stood.
Some have tried to pass it off as the standing players somehow being ‘confused’ as to what was happening. In fairness, the Black Lives Matter movement has been pretty low key over the last year and examples of elite sportsmen taking the knee have been thin on the ground.
No-one’s naive enough to think ‘I’ve just ended racism by taking a knee’. It’s merely a show of support for people who are being discriminated against.
Some have suggested that the impact has been dulled by familiarity, but a cause doesn’t suddenly become irrelevant just because you’re bored of it.
There may be viewers at home for whom the gesture barely registers, but for a young rugby fan who’s received racist abuse at school it could mean the world.
Twickenham offered these players a massive platform, from which they could promote a message of inclusivity. England v Scotland is the one rugby match that people in Scotland who don’t follow rugby will watch.
They could have taken the knee in solidarity and then later come out and explained why they felt it wasn’t sufficient. It’s valid to have concerns over whether its impact has been diluted, or to ask if its become a token gesture used as a substitute for real, substantive change.
Have that conversation, but if your team-mates are making a small gesture of solidarity do that bare minimum with them and then ask how you can build on it. Failing to take the knee just undermines the positive message promoted by your colleagues.
Publicly demonstrating a reluctance to show that support doesn’t make you some kind of maverick freethinker.
Choosing not to take the knee does not in itself make you a racist, just as taking it does not instantly cure racism.
Choosing to take it, however, is a clear, unambiguous and easily understood statement that you stand against intolerance. It’s a condemnation of racism and a public affirmation that black lives matter, not a point-by-point endorsement of the goals and actions of every member of an organisation called ‘Black Lives Matter’.Embed from Getty Images
There was little media coverage of the issue on Saturday night. Had this been football, it’s likely there would already have been widespread condemnation in the media and from politicians.
Scottish football is consistently looked down upon as the poor relation. A sport played and enjoyed by a less worldly-wise bunch. Rugby? Now there’s a sport you can bring home to your parents.
The perception of rugby as a sport for upper class folk divorced from reality was only reinforced by a pandering post-match tweet from Michael ’round my gran’s bit, you wouldn’t know her’ Gove.
If the majority of players from my football team failed to join their colleagues in taking the knee, I would want to know why. The media certainly would too.
The Scottish Rugby Union should be providing a thorough explanation of these events just as the SFA would be expected to if most of Steve Clarke’s team remained standing before an international at Hampden.
Taking the knee is not mandatory, and it’s correct that it remains the individual’s choice.
Forcing them to do it would diminish the impact of a high-profile person choosing to take a public stand against racism.
It’s what the choice not to do so says about them that’s the issue here.
What was the hashtag used by the team’s official account on the day that four players took the knee while the majority stood?
Amid the fallout on social media, there have been repeated references to ‘freedom of expression’.
It’s true. They are free to not take the knee.
Just as I’m free to say they should be embarrassed.