Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha said he "will continue to stand tall" after becoming the first Premier League player to refuse to take a knee in the league's pre-match demonstration against racism.
"My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now," Zaha said in a statement released before a 1–0 win over West Bromwich Albion. "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."
The 28-year-old Palace star said that while he respects the work being done by the Premier League to combat racism, Zaha said not enough is being done outside of the sport. Last summer, a 12-year-old boy in England was arrested for racially abusing Zaha online.
"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," Zaha said.
The Ivory Coast international is not alone in refusing to take a knee in the pre-match routine that began after Black Lives Matter protests last May. Second-division English sides Bournemouth, Derby, Brentford and Millwall have all committed to stop kneeling before games, saying that the routine has become a hollow gesture.
"Wilf’s not alone now in being a person who thinks maybe taking the knee has become a bit of ritual rather than a massive statement," Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said. "So he’s chosen himself to take this step which puts him out of the bubble of knee takers and [has given him] the chance to make the statement he made to show how strongly he disapproves of what’s been going on and what is still happening ... We’re all behind that."