The English Premier League reopened on Thursday in 100 days, and in the opener, the 22 players stood on the pitch with the same message printed on their back, “Black Lives Matter.” At the referee’s whistle, players sat down on one knee, making silent prayers. A pall of silence fell on the empty stands.
The EPL has resumed after a three-month hiatus with two fixtures - Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United, Manchester City vs. Arsenal – taking the lead for kickoff. The last EPL match before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic hit was between Aston Villa and Leicester City on March 10.
Most football leagues including the EPL ban the use of any activity or phrase with political connotations on the ground, but this was an exception. Richard Masters, the chief executive of the EPL, said it “represented an ethical stance rather than a political one,” adding he thought it was a good thing to raise a voice on global issues given the unprecedented nature of the times.
“It was a massive step that players took a knee,” said Raheem Sterling, the Jamaican striker of the Manchester United. “We are going in the right direction, and the little by little we are seeing change.”