A Conservative MP has vowed to boycott England games during this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament if the national team’s players continue to take the knee before kick-off.
Lee Anderson accused the team of “supporting a political movement” – an apparent reference to Black Lives Matter – by making the anti-racism gesture during the warm-up match with Austria.
The MP for Ashfield and Eastwood in Nottinghamshire said the Football Association (FA) and the team “made a big mistake” by adopting it.
He added: “All forms of racism are vile and should be stamped out – but this is not the way.
“For the first time in my life I will not be watching my beloved England team whilst they are supporting a political movement whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life.”
Mr Anderson made the statement in a Facebook post responding to Gareth Southgate’s condemnation of supporters who booed the players for kneeling before kick-off at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday.
The England manager insisted it was not a political gesture and commented that “some people aren’t quite understanding the message”.
His comments prompted another Tory MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith, to accuse the England manager of insulting the intelligence of fans who disagree with taking the knee.
“Fans understand perfectly well – they are just sick and tired of being preached and spoken down to. They are there to watch a football match, not to be lectured on morality,” he said.
Mr Clarke-Smith, the MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, also accused officials of backing an “extreme” political movement by making what he called a “ridiculous empty gesture”.
He said: “Black Lives Matter is a political movement and also promotes some quite eccentric and extreme policies, such as abolishing the nuclear family and defunding the police, as well as many others.
“Whilst I don’t doubt that the football authorities had genuinely good intentions, I believe they were misguided and that they should have devised their own campaign at the time, rather than seemingly allying themselves with a political movement.”
The MP went on to urge the team to “learn some lessons” ahead of Sunday’s warm-up game with Romania.
However, on Saturday Mr Southgate confirmed that the team had decided to continue to take the knee throughout the tournament.
“The most important thing for our players is to know that we are totally united on it, we’re totally committed to supporting each other, supporting the team. We feel that more than ever determined to take the knee through this tournament,” he said.