A couple weeks ago, former Chelsea TV presenter and stadium announcer (and still Chelsea fan), Neil Barnett pointed out that Marcos Alonso had stopped participating in the pre-match taking of the knee this season, unlike the rest of his teammates and the (vast majority of the) rest of the Premier League.
Hmm! Why has @marcosalonso03 not taken the knee in the last 3 games?— Neil Barnett (@NeilSpyBarnett) September 11, 2021
The gesture that was brought to international attention by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, had become a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement and was adopted by Premier League players as well in their continuing fight against racism and all forms of discrimination.
The league, the referees, and the players all decided to make the action official for this season, even, to keep bringing attention to the issue and show a unified front in doing so (i.e. the collective over the personal). The Premier League also put a “No Room For Racism” badge on every shirt sleeve.
“We feel now, more than ever, it is important for us to continue to take the knee as a symbol of our unity against all forms of racism.
“We remain resolutely committed to our singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect and equal opportunities for all.”
So why did Alonso stop participating? (He’s not the first, but is one of just a handful, including Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha or Brentford’s Ivan Toney.)
Marcos Alonso has stopped taking the knee. Here the Chelsea left-back explains why #cfc https://t.co/qZn0Yvx4jU— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) September 20, 2021
As Alonso tries to explain to the Telegraph’s Matt Law, it’s because he believes the gesture has lost its original meaning — by which he presumably means that it’s become more performative than anything else, which can indeed happen to symbolic gestures over a (sometimes long, sometimes short) period of time. People end up going through the motions, and not actually mean whatever they’re supposed to be representing.
Instead, he’s decided to point to the “No Room For Racism” badge on his shirt sleeve.
“I am fully against racism and I’m against every type of discrimination, and I just prefer to put my finger to the badge where it says no to racism, like they do in some other sports and football in other countries. I prefer to do it this way and, of course, to say very clearly that I am against racism and I respect everybody.”
“[It’s not political], I just prefer to do it this way. It’s my way to do it, I think it’s another way. And maybe I think it’s losing a bit of strength the other way, so I just prefer to do it this way and to show I am fully supportive of fighting against racism.”
I’d like to give Alonso the benefit of the doubt that he actually thought all of this through critically, and that he’s doing this bit to (literally) take a stand and thus draw even more attention to the issues — including the collective response to it and, like Antonio Rüdiger recently wrote for The Players’ Tribune, how such responses often do little more than make everyone else feel good about themselves.
(It should also be noted that despite not considering it political, Alonso’s actions and words have found very fertile ground on the UK’s right-wing. Is that an association he wants?)
Pointing to a badge is not exactly as symbolic as kneeling especially when done collectively — case in point: the cameras have yet to focus on it — but okay, let’s have a conversation then. Chelsea are at the forefront of football’s fight against racism and discrimination; Alonso can have all the platform he wants.
Unfortunately, as he reveals, he hasn’t been having such conversations with the people whom he considers “his family”. And that makes his earlier explanation of his conscious actions ring somewhat hollow.
“No, we haven’t talked about it. We are in the changing room and we are like a family. I have a very good relationship with everyone, I love everyone and up to now we haven’t talked about it. I don’t think there is a need to, but, of course, if I have to speak to anyone, I will say the same thing I just told you and I don’t think there will be any problems.”
-Marcos Alonso; source: Telegraph
Well, let’s ask them, shall we?
After all, it’s not about you, Marcos.
P.S.: The Telegraph interview also touches on the constant booing of Alonso by Spurs supporters. He seems to believe it’s due to the rivalry and him always playing really well or scoring against them (which is true), but Spurs fans will tell you — and as explained at the time of his signing — it’s because of the reckless drunk driving incident in 2011 that killed a passenger in his car, which he crashed into a wall. Despite being charged with negligent homicide, Alonso never served time (he faced 21 months in jail) and ended up only paying a fine — that outcome probably had as much do with his status as a professional footballer as it did with the vagaries of Spanish criminal law.