England players were met with some boos as they took the knee ahead of their Euro 2020 opener against Croatia at Wembley Stadium – but the cheers drowned out the jeers.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has pledged his side will carry out the gesture before each of their games at the tournament this summer.
England have taken the knee over the last year to show their support for racial equality, but they were jeered by some fans as they took the knee ahead of friendlies against Austria and Romania at the Riverside Stadium last week.
There was a similar reaction from a minority of the 22,500 fans in attendance at Wembley when England took the knee before kick-off against Croatia, who, as expected, did not join in the gesture.
A newly-published study found that 27 per cent of England fans oppose their side taking the knee, despite pleas from Three Lions players, Southgate and the government to get behind the team.
“The prime minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices,” said a spokesperson for prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday.
“I think the prime minister has spoken before about his desire to get everybody to get behind the national team and the PM would like to see everyone getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo.”
The boos his side faced before their clash with Croatia will not have come as a surprise to Southgate.
But the 50-year-old is as determined as ever for him and his players to continue showing their opposition to racism in football and wider society.
“I think I sadly sort of expected what happened to happen,” said Southgate of the boos his side faced at the Riverside.
“We’ve accepted that, as a group. It isn’t going to stop what we are doing and what we believe.
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“It certainly isn’t going to stop my support for our players and our staff. That’s it, we are going to have to live with that. We’ve said what we are going to say now.
“You are right to ask the question today but moving forward, it is pointless me going into any further detail on that.”
Southgate has also asked those who boo taking the knee to think twice and empathise with one of the many youngsters in the England squad.
“Those people should put themselves in the shoes of the young players,” he said.
“We did discuss if there is a better way of doing this. Is there more an impactful way now of doing this? How would they feel if their kids were in that situation?
“Perhaps moving forward there probably is, but at this moment in time, given what happened the other day, we were not prepared to make a backward step.
“We feel that would be wrong and we would be bowing to pressure from outside and we don’t think that is appropriate. We are united on that as a full team.”