QPR director Les Ferdinand criticizes football’s obsession with gestures over ‘actions’ when it comes to racism

Queens Park Rangers director Les Ferdinand, a former England international, said on Monday he feels the impact of players taking a knee “has now been diluted” and that the gesture was now “not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.”

“The taking of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR’ but little more than that,” Ferdinand said in a statement on the QPR website.

Ferdinand’s comments come after QPR players, along with a number of other English Football League (EFL) clubs, were criticized for not kneeling during their Championship match against Coventry City on Friday.

In the Premier League, all teams have continued to take a knee into the new season.

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“No one is more passionate than me about this topic. I have spoken on the matter throughout my footballing life,” said Ferdinand.

“I work for one of the most diverse football clubs in this country. A lot of people are being fooled out there.

“Recently, I took the decision not to do any more interviews on racism in football because the debate was going around in circles. People want a nice soundbite when something happens, but how many of the media who have criticized QPR over the past 48 hours genuinely want change?”

Ferdinand, one of the few Black individuals in a senior role at an English football club, has instead called for more tangible changes to be made within the game.

“What are our plans with this?” he added. “Will people be happy for players to take the knee for the next 10 years but see no actual progress made?

“Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game — actions will.”

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‘Not today or any day’

Athletes across the world have been taking a knee in the wake of George Floyd’s death earlier this year, a gesture that was started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a protest against police brutality and social injustice in the US.

Premier League players have continued to kneel this season, while some players in the EFL have stopped at the start of the new season.

QPR said the decision for players not to take a knee was made jointly with Coventry and that it did not demonstrate “a lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.”

QPR players celebrates a goal in their 3-2 defeat by Coventry City.

The EFL, which governs the second, third and fourth tiers of English football, says it has given consistent guidance to clubs this season and last season that it is a player’s choice to take a knee or not and that it will help facilitate those who do.

Players are also wearing “Not today or any day” logos on their jerseys throughout the season, the EFL’s anti-discrimination campaign.

“The whole debate around taking a knee is misdirection,” said CNN contributor Darren Lewis in relation to Ferdinand’s remarks.

“I think that, rather than us asking questions about players taking a knee, we should be asking the Premier League and the EFL what progress they’ve made … we haven’t heard anything from those organizations since last season.

“The problems with football are obvious — racism, representation, a lack of opportunity for players after they finish playing, another generation of players getting abuse and nobody doing anything about it.

“Football’s got big issues and we don’t have any resolution to them. Running around asking whether players should or shouldn’t take a knee continues the meaningless debate that football wants us to have instead of challenging authority.”

When contacted for comment, the Premier League pointed CNN to a statement from earlier this month announcing that players and match officials will wear “No Room For Racism” on their jerseys throughout the 2020/21 season. The statement also said it would continue to support players who take a knee at matches.

“We, our clubs, players and match officials have a long-standing commitment to tackling discrimination,” said Premier League chief Richard Masters.

“Players rightly have a strong voice on this matter, which we saw last season. We have continued to talk and listen to players on this issue and will support them as well as continuing to emphasize the Premier League’s position against racism.”