Les Ferdinand launches angry defence of QPR's decision to stop taking the knee

Ben Rumsby
·5 min read
Les Ferdinand says he has turned down the chance to be interviewed for the technical director position with the Football Association.  - PA
Les Ferdinand says he has turned down the chance to be interviewed for the technical director position with the Football Association. - PA

Premier League clubs had no plans to stop taking the knee on Monday night, despite Les Ferdinand comparing the gesture to “a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge” in an angry defence of Queens Park Rangers’ refusal to continue performing it.

QPR’s director of football, one of the most senior black figures in the English game, spoke out following criticism of the Championship club’s shunning of something adopted by sport this year to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Premier League teams have taken the knee in every match since football resumed following the coronavirus crisis but English Football League sides are split over whether or not to do so and almost half did not perform the gesture during games played between Friday and Sunday.

QPR were among them after deciding it had failed to lead to meaningful change.

Les Ferdinand has slammed Queens Park Rangers’ decision to stop taking the knee - Javier Garcia/BPI/Shutterstock/Shutterstock
Les Ferdinand has slammed Queens Park Rangers’ decision to stop taking the knee - Javier Garcia/BPI/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

“Taking the knee was very powerful but we feel that impact has now been diluted,” Ferdinand said.

“In the same way ‘Clap For Carers’ was very emotional for us all, it got to a stage where it had run its natural course and the decision was rightly made to stop it.

“Does that mean we, as a nation, don’t care or appreciate our NHS workers? Of course it doesn’t.

“No one is more passionate than me about this topic. I have spoken on the matter throughout my footballing life.

“I work for one of the most diverse football clubs in this country. A lot of people are being fooled out there.

“Recently, I took the decision not to do any more interviews on racism in football because the debate was going around in circles. People want a nice soundbite when something happens, but how many of the media who have criticised QPR over the past 48 hours genuinely want change?

“The taking of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR’ but little more than that. The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.

“What are our plans with this? Will people be happy for players to take the knee for the next ten years but see no actual progress made?

“Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will.

“Those media that have been quick to question us should be looking more inwardly. Our Under 18s were forced to abandon a game in August 2019 against AD Nervion FC due to racist abuse.

“More than 12 months on, Uefa refused to deal with the situation and the Spanish FA did nothing.

“What media coverage has been given to that? Not nearly as much as what has been granted to QPR not taking a knee.

“Don’t judge us. Simple research and evidence will show you we are doing more than most. If you want change, judge yourselves.”

Les Ferdinand playing in the Game4Grenfell Charity football match in 2017. - REUTERS
Les Ferdinand playing in the Game4Grenfell Charity football match in 2017. - REUTERS

Chief executive Lee Hoos added: “To be blunt, anyone who thinks our players condone racism because they didn’t take a knee really doesn’t get it. Anyone who responds to Black Live Matter by saying all lives matter really doesn’t get it. Anyone who thinks just taking a knee is sufficient in fighting social injustice really doesn’t get it.

“Actions speak louder than words. People need to DO something more than simple gestures.”

Premier League clubs told Telegraph Sport on Monday their players would continue to take the knee before matches, something agreed in a meeting of team captains before the start of the season.

The league itself said it was for those same players to decide whether or not to scrap the gesture.

The EFL said it was for individual clubs and their players whether they took the knee, something that has been its policy since football resumed in June but which last week saw it come under fire from teams who are demanding it takes more of a lead.

Carabao Cup ties involving Premier League clubs have all seen players from both sides perform the gesture, something expected to continue in this week’s third-round fixtures.

Sanjay Bhandari, chair at Kick It Out, said: “We know that racial injustice and other forms of discrimination did not end when the last football season ended. We encourage the players to continue to protest in whatever form they feel comfortable and to do so free of the risk of sanction, whether that protest is taking a knee, wearing a badge or any other form. The form of protest and who protests is not the issue and should not detract from the real issue. The real issue is meaningful action to create sustainable change. We need to focus on the targets for greater representation in football leadership and coaching, and on mobilising everyone to stand against the rise in hate, especially online.

“I know that Lee Hoos and Les Ferdinand at QPR are deeply committed to equality. I know how rightfully enraged they were by the treatment of their youth team players last summer and the pitiful response of Uefa and the Spanish FA. I agree with them that we need to focus on action that creates real change. We should be talking about solutions, not symbols.”