England players booed for taking a knee despite plea by team

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LONDON (AP) — Sections of fans at Wembley Stadium booed England players for taking a knee before the European Championship game against Croatia on Sunday.

The boos, which could be heard over those fans applauding, came despite pleas from the team to respect the anti-racism gesture. Croatia’s players did not take a knee as expected.

Some England fans claim taking a knee is a political act but the English Football Association said again ahead of the team's opening Euro 2020 match that the gesture is important to them and should be respected.

“They are doing this as a mechanism of peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice and inequality," the FA said in a statement to fans. "This is personally important to the players and the values the team collectively represents. This gesture of unity and fighting against inequality can be traced back as far as the 18th century.

“It is not new, and English football has made it very clear that it does not view this as being aligned to a political organisation or ideology. There can be no doubt as to why the players are taking the knee and what it represents in a footballing context.”

The jeering was by some fans who also chanted “No surrender” during the national anthem. That’s a dated reference to the conflict endured for generations that saw Britain hit by Irish Republic Army terrorist attacks.

Croatia's national anthem was also booed by some of the 22,500 fans allowed into Wembley, which could lead to the country's soccer association being fined by UEFA.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Rob Harris, The Associated Press

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