Premier League players will have George Floyd on their minds, says psychologist Steven Sylvester
"When I speak privately as I do for many hours a week with Premier League footballers, they all have a voice and they all want to find a way to make sure unfairness gets resolved"
By Dan Sansom
Last Updated: 12/06/20 6:45pm
Premier League players will have George Floyd on their minds when the season resumes, says psychologist Steven Sylvester who works closely with them.
Athletes across the world, including Premier League footballers Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings, have joined in support of protests triggered by the death of unarmed black man Floyd in US police custody last month.
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Arsenal players sent a "strong message" by wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts before their friendly against Brentford on Wednesday night, while Liverpool and Chelsea were among a host of Premier League clubs to show their support by taking a knee during training last week.
Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt says he is "100 per cent prepared" to take a knee in his first game back when the season resumes and Sylvester - who works closely with Premier League players in his role as a chartered psychologist - says many will be affected by recent events.
"It would be remiss of me not to mention George Floyd and the whole feeling of inequality, access to opportunity and to have a fair opportunity to do your work, whoever you are in society," he told Sky Sports News.
"As a psychologist I spend a lot of time hearing people's stories about fairness, justice, inequality and it would be wrong to say that it isn't on their minds. Every player is thinking about that.
"I've had so many discussions with all different players from all different backgrounds on how to bring people together and celebrate difference.
"Those conversations do make particularly black footballers want to disclose how they personally feel about the situation, the particular situation that we're living in with unfairness in society.
"When I speak privately as I do for many hours a week with Premier League footballers, they all have a voice and they all want to find a way to make sure unfairness gets resolved."
'Clubs should have protocol on how to protest'
The Premier League will be supportive of players who take a knee as a public show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement when the season resumes next week.
The Football Association assured players they would take a "common sense approach" to any displays of anti-racist or political gestures, while the German FA decided not to take action against England international Jadon Sancho and other Bundesliga players who displayed anti-racism messages following the death of Floyd.
Sylvester believes clubs should have an agreement in place with their players on how they can come together to protest collectively.
"Something needs to be done and what I would say is that the clubs should have a club protocol on how to protest," Sylvester added.
"We saw Arsenal take the knee in their friendly match. I think the players have to come together and I would urge all players to talk to one another in every club and make sure there's a uniformed protest about what happened because we're all horrified."
'Some players feel like guinea pigs'
Games will be played behind closed doors as the world continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic and Sylvester, who has also been helping players cope with the crisis, says some are nervous about returning to action.
"There are some who are so excited and they can't wait to get back to doing their job because it's been a long time since they last played," he said.
"There are others who are just thinking 'oh my gosh, I'm training all the time and games behind closed doors is an issue or it's making me feel a bit nervous. I'm fearful about the virus and what that means and I feel slightly like a guinea pig.'
"Players are very professional. They get back to doing their work but you mix the fact that they're human just like anyone else and we're all fearful of the virus.
"On top of that they've got the demands of finishing a nine-game or 10-game season and get up to speed and be ready to play in a very unusual atmosphere.
"We had the situation where if you look at the Bundesliga, since they've gone back and have been playing behind closed doors the home advantage has gone because no longer have you got the rallying cry of the crowd.
"But as professional footballers they're used to playing their game so they are masters of what they're doing and they will find a way."