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Crystal Palace's Zaha becomes first Premier League player not to take knee

FOOTBALL By Reuters | March 14th 2021
March 13, 2021 Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha stands as West Bromwich Albion's Matt Phillips kneels in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match [REUTERS]

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player not to take a knee in protest against racism when he stayed standing with his hands behind his back before kickoff in Saturday's 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

The Ivory Coast international said last month he would stop taking a knee before matches because he believes the meaning of the gesture, which he called "degrading", has been lost.

Players have been taking a knee since July, initially in support of the "Black Lives Matter" movement before the Premier League and English Football League linked the gesture to their own anti-racism campaigns.

March 13, 2021 West Bromwich Albion's Dara O'Shea in action with Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha [REUTERS]

"There is no right or wrong decision, but... 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," Zaha said in a statement on Saturday.

Premier League players, including Zaha, have been racially abused online, prompting English soccer bodies to put pressure on social media companies to tackle the problem.

"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... my team-mates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee," Zaha added.

"As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people who abuse others online - not just footballers."

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