On the eve of its long awaited return, big news has broken out in the United Kingdom for one of the world’s most popular soccer leagues. The English Premier League will replace the players’ names with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on the back of their jerseys when it resumes action this coming Wednesday .
This practice will go into effect for the first 12 games of the restarted season, the league announced last Friday.
In the days since the tragic death of George Floyd, protests have not only spread across the United States, but have hit the streets of London, Paris, Sydney and other international cities as the words “Black Lives Matter” echo from street to street.
The sports world has taken notice with tributes to Floyd and demands to end police brutality flooding from NBA players as well as a collaborative video from the biggest stars of the NFL calling for the very same thing.
American sports are not the only sports joining the cause, however, as players from the Australian Football League took a momentary knee in respect for Floyd before restarting their long-delayed season.
All 20 captains from the Premier League pushed to support the worldwide movement. The effort was led by Watford’s Troy Deeney, Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin under the umbrella of a group called #PlayersTogether, which was formed in April in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We, the players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice," #PlayersTogether said in a joint statement picked up by the BBC. #PlayersTogether said it was committed to "a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for all, regardless of their colour or creed."
A Black Lives Matter badge will also be put on the players’ kits for the rest of the season along with a badge dedicated to thanking NHS (National Health Service) staff who have fought COVID-19.
In addition, the Premier League stated its support for any player choosing to take a knee before or during a match. Some clubs in the league have already done some kneeling in tribute to Floyd during training sessions.
Manchester City star Raheem Sterling has been vocal in supporting the gestures the Premier League has taken.
“I know this might sound a little bit cheesy, but the only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting,” said Sterling during an interview on BBC’s Newsnight. “This is the most important thing at this moment in time because this is something that is happening for years and years. Just like the pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it.”
The Premier League will not be the first European soccer league to make such gestures. The German Bundesliga saw players take a knee for Floyd a few weeks back during a match featuring Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin.
It is now becoming clear that tributes to the Black Lives Matter movement will become a trend in the sports world, as it is now speculated that similar gestures will happen once NBA action resumes and once the NFL season gets under way.
The English Premier League is expected to restart June 17 with top dogs Manchester City and Arsenal squaring off, and No. 7 Sheffield United taking on bottom-dweller Aston Villa. These will be the first Premier League games to take place since the league paused play on March 13.
Games will be played in empty stadiums and will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network and NBC in the United States.