Football fans have a right to boo the England team for “taking a knee” to protest against racism, Priti Patel has said.
The home secretary said the anti-racism protest was “gesture politics” – and swerved a question about whether she herself would boo.
In an interview with broadcaster GB News, Patel claimed Black Lives Matter protests have had a “devastating” impact, and criticised the pulling down of the “famous” Bristol statue of slave trader Edward Colston.
“I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture – gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well,” she said.
“It’s all well to support a cause and make your voices heart but actually quite frankly, and we saw quite frankly in particular as some of the protests that took place – I speak now very much in what I saw in the impact on policing – it was devastating.
“Not only that, I just don’t subscribe to this view that we should be rewriting our history – pulling down statues, the famous Coulson statue, and what’s happened there. Toppling statues is not the answer, it’s about learning from our past, learning from our history and actually working together to drive the right outcome.”
Asked whether England fans had a right to boo the national team during the European Championships, she said: “That’s a choice for them quite frankly. I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that.”
A minority of fans booed the England team as they took the knee to protest against systemic racism ahead of their Euro 2020 opener against Croatia on Sunday.
Polling for YouGov found that 54 per cent of England fans support the move – with just 39 per cent against.
Patel’s intervention casts herself in stark contrast to England manager Gareth Southgate, who said players has to “recognise the impact they can have on society” and “give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people”.
“I have never believed that we should just stick to football,” he explained in an blog post articulating his views.