‘It shows even more that we have to keep going, keep fighting it. From our side, it’s about being together’
The players have discussed the issue at length over the last few days, including how to deal with it in the media. While all put up for the squad’s media day on Wednesday were willing to acknowledge the issue, the stance was very much that this will be the last they say about it because they are going to continue regardless of the reaction. The players feel they have said all they can.
Henderson, who is a core member of Gareth Southgate’s leadership group, had a simple final message for supporters before the tournament starts for England against Croatia on Sunday.
“I think it shows that, if there are still people booing because we’re standing together against racism, then there really still is a problem and we’ve still got to fight it and stand together on that.
“It shows even more that we have to keep going, keep fighting it. From our side, it’s about being together and doing what we think is right – and that’s what we feel is right.”
Henderson stressed that the players feel they have explained themselves enough, that their motivation has nothing to do with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ political movement. It is simply about tackling racial inequality.
“I think, as players, we’ve made it very clear that we all stand together against racism. That’s the reason that we continue to take the knee, and have done over the last few weeks. I think the lads are starting to feel like they don’t really want to talk about it any more. Of course, everyone knows we stand together and you’ll see that in taking the knee, but we want to get on with the football and concentrate on that. That’s our focus.”
Mings, who has been hugely active on such issues and gone on marches, acknowledged that the discussion has got to point where no message “is going to stop the booing”. The 28-year-old did stress his hope that “understanding” would seep in over time.
“No message I can give now is going to stop them,” Mings said. When asked whether supporters who booed were a lost cause, though, the defender denied that.
“You would like to hope not. You would hope by educating these people, some day they will understand why it is that we are taking a knee. But four or five days before a major tournament, I don’t want to get caught up on whether or not we should.
“There is a time and place for it.”
“I am a strong advocate for trying to educate people who might not understand issues they have been subjected to.
“They are my views, I never would give you the views of other people because like the manager said we had a good conversation about whether we talk about it or not and I was part of that conversation and gave my input to it. Whilst I don’t feel it is less important, I don’t want it to become a distraction.”