Jason Lee says footballers taking a knee shows a 'cry for help' over social injustice

"If that's not a cry for help, what is? It's powerful. It's great when you can get your peers to stand alongside you. But what comes next?"

Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter 1:00
PFA equalities education executive Jason Lee believes teams will stop taking the knee following Les Ferdinand's comments that the message behind the gesture has been lost

Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) equalities executive Jason Lee says that players taking a knee shows a "cry for help" over social injustice and feels it is time to focus on greater Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation in positions of power within the sport.

Footballers all across the world began taking a knee last season to show their support for the ongoing anti-racism movement, which surged following the killing of George Floyd in May.

Les Ferdinand, director of football at Sky Bet Championship side Queens Park Rangers, feels the message behind taking a knee has been lost but Micah Richards has since argued why it remains the right thing to do while Lee says we should now turn our attentions to institutional inequality.

Arsenal and Liverpool's players will take a knee before kick-off in the Community Shield this weekend 0:52
Darren Moore says players will continue to take the knee as a stance against social injustice and he believes the current movement has momentum to create real change

"It's great that the players have been taking a knee," Lee told Sky Sports News. "It has been powerful. I think what Les [Ferdinand] was getting at is what we do next.

"What does change look like? People get overcomplicated with that question, for me change is visibility. If you can see [BAME] people in different positions of authority and power - coaches, managers, people in the boardrooms, high-up executives, people in the media, then you can aspire to be that person.

David McGoldrick takes the knee 0:34
Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick played a leading role in encouraging Premier League players to take the knee and believes education is the key to change

"The fact that we're talking about underrepresentation across all areas, it's that lack of visibility that makes us feel that inequality.

"It's quite simple in that respect: start giving people opportunities. Taking the knee is great and it's been around forever. It's quite alarming when all you can do as a human being is take a knee.

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"If that's not a cry for help, what is? It's powerful. It's great when you can get your peers to stand alongside you. But what comes next? We want changes.

"When Raheem Sterling comes out and says he wants to see more black coaches, what are we doing to do to address that? I think players can and will continue to take the knee. There was always going to come a time when it became a little tiring or worn, and as soon as you stop, people question it.

"Queens Park Rangers were not the only club to stop. Les felt he needed to come out and defend his club, which is a very diverse club. They are doing more than most in terms of staffing structure."

David McGoldrick takes the knee 0:34
Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick played a leading role in encouraging Premier League players to take the knee and believes education is the key to change

In July, League Manager's Association (LMA) chief executive Richard Bevan said key concrete action was needed to accelerate the number of BAME coaches, managers and leaders in football.

There are currently 35 pro-licensed coaches in the game who would regard themselves as being from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

England boss Gareth Southgate acknowledged earlier this summer that greater action is required to increase BAME representation within the game, but also pointed to a number of Football Association initiatives that give BAME people more opportunities, and highlighted highly-rated coach Justin Cochrane.

"There are on-going schemes... I'm not a massive lover of initiatives because I don't always think that they deliver ultimately what is required," Southgate said. "I think you need more forceful change.

Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on July 08, 2020 in Manchester, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. 0:36
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce fully supports Les Ferdinand's claim that the message behind 'taking a knee' has been lost

"But I think there have been initiatives in the last four or five years that are starting to make a difference.

"We have some very good young black coaches coming through our development teams, Justin Cochrane is somebody who I think, within our group of national coaches, he is going to be a top coach.

"We also shouldn't look just at the ex-players or high-profile players.

"Because as we know, so many of the top managers haven't been top, top international players and that route must also be open to black coaches that haven't played at the highest level.

Mason Greenwood takes a knee before Manchester United's game against Southampton 1:27
Mason Greenwood says taking a knee sends a powerful message

"There will be some super bright lads out there who have come through universities, they might take the route that a Graham Potter or somebody has gone, by going back into university. So we've got to make sure that all of those pathways are open."

Following the restart of the 2019/20 campaign after the top-flight was frozen due to the coronavirus pandemic, Premier League players decided to wear 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of their shirts instead of their names for the first round of fixtures, and then had a Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts for the remainder of the season.

 1:25
Jose Mourinho and Mikel Arteta talk about the plans made by Premier League captains for the players to wear a 'No Room For Racism' sleeve badge for the 2020/21 season

This has been replaced by a 'No Room For Racism' sleeve badge for the new season, but Premier League managers such as Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson have stressed that both messages remain vitally important.

EFL CEO David Baldwin also recently revealed that all players in the Championship, League One and League Two will wear a 'Not Today or Any Day' logo on their shirts for 2020/21 in recognition of their own fight against racism.

Crystal Palace duo Patrick van Aanholt, Wilfried Zaha, former Arsenal forward Ian Wright, Sheffield United's David McGoldrick and Borussia Dortmund signing Jude Bellingham were all subjected to online racist abuse at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, in the USA, following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin in August, NBA, MLB and NHL teams all boycotted matches in a show of defiance against racial injustice.

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