The world around us has changed significantly in the last three months since the Premier League shut down — and is still changing as we speak — and if there is one thing we learned, it’s that to separate sports from “not sports” is impossible. Whether we should even try to separate is perhaps a discussion for another day, but the events of 2020 (so far) have served as testament to that notion’s futility.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the frail foundations of much of the world’s healthcare and economic systems, and football hasn’t been spared either. Meanwhile, the issue of civil rights, equality, and justice is one that needs all voices, including those with the ability to influence individually not just as a group. The world is paying attention, and there’s real momentum behind the protests in America and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.
When the Premier League restarts next weekend (plus the two catch-up games on Wednesday), players’ shirts will pay tribute to these cosmic events around us.
As decided in yesterday’s Premier League crisis “wrap-up” meeting, according to the Guardian, all teams will be wearing shirts with embroideries that pay tribute to the victims of COVID-19 as well as the efforts of National Health Service (NHS) workers to combat the disease. A minute’s silence will also be observed.
In addition, on the backs of the shirts, player surnames will be replaced with “Black Lives Matter” in support of that movement, while it’s expected that many, if not all, players and teams will be taking a knee prior to kick-off to continue raising attention and keep the momentum of meaningful change going. The league has specifically approved the gesture, though there is no word on whether the usual punishments would be stayed if players took their shirt off to reveal slogans in support of the movement, as we’ve seen in the Bundesliga (e.g. during goal celebrations or post-match).
“We, the Players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for All, regardless of their colour or creed. This symbol is a sign of unity from all Players, all Staff, all Clubs, all Match Officials and the Premier League #blacklivesmatter #playerstogether.’
-Premier League players statement; source: Chelsea FC
The Premier League is many things, some good, some bad, all dramatic. If we can use that exposure and that worldwide audience to not only acknowledge some real heroes but also help bring about meaningful change, then this Restart just might have been worth it already.
“The Premier League stands alongside players, clubs, The FA, EFL, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and all those who oppose discrimination in any form.
“The League supports the players’ wish to have their names replaced by “Black Lives Matter” on the back of their shirts for the first 12 matches of the restarted 2019/20 season. A Black Lives Matter logo will also feature on shirts for the remainder of the season, along with a badge thanking the NHS for their work during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, the League will support players who “take a knee” before or during matches.
“The Premier League believes there is no room for racism, anywhere. #NoRoomForRacism”
-Premier League statement; source: Chelsea FC