Crystal Palace forward Wilfred Zaha has become the first premier league player to opt of out taking the knee in protest against racism before kick-off of Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win over West Brom.
Since Project Restart last summer, players, officials and staff prior to kick-off at Premier League and EFL matches have performed the gesture in protest against racial discrimination.
Zaha, who has been subjected to online racial abuse on multiple occasions, confirmed to Financial Times Business Summit last month that he would stop taking the knee because the gesture was “degrading” and encouraged players to “stand tall” in defiance of racism.
In a statement, the midfielder said: “My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now.
“There is no right or wrong decision, but for me personally I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and at the moment it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse.
“I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes at the Premier League and other authorities to make change, and I fully respect that, and everyone involved.
“I also fully respect my teammates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.
“As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking strong action against people who abuse others online – not just footballers.
“I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall.”
A 12-year-old boy was arrested last summer for racially offensive messages which were sent to Zaha on Instagram and he was given education lessons following the incident.
Meanwhile, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has confirmed to Sky Sports News that players will continue to take the knee until the end of 2020/2021 season.