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Crystal Palace Star Zaha Becomes First Premier League Player Not to Take a Knee Before Match

Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player not to take a knee before a match since the gesture was widely adopted last June. He opted not to take

Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player not to take a knee before a match since the gesture was widely adopted last June.

He opted not to take a knee before Crystal Palace’s Premier League clash with West Brom on Saturday.

The Eagles talisman recently stated his view that the gesture – performed ahead of kick-off across English football since last season to show support for the campaign for racial equality following the Black Lives Matter protests – was “degrading” and had lost its meaning, offering little in the fight against abuse.

Zaha was therefore not expected to continue to take a knee alongside his Crystal Palace team-mates on Saturday, instead choosing his own approach that was backed by manager Roy Hodgson.

While the rest of the Palace team knelt along with West Brom’s players on Saturday, the Ivory Coast international – who has been targeted by vile racist abuse online this season – opted to stand on the halfway line with his hands clasped behind his back.

“My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now,” Zaha said in a statement.

“There is no right or wrong decision, but for me personally 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.

“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 everyone involved. I also fully respect my team-mates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.

“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.

“I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall.”

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