Eleven Sale Sharks players chose not to take the knee in support of Black Lives Matter on Friday as the Premiership Rugby side left their stars to make the personal choice over whether to support the anti-racism movement.
Domestic rugby has returned for the first time since lockdown this weekend and, as has been the case in the majority of sports post-lockdown, some players have opted to take the knee – a stance that endorses the BLM movement after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer who knelt on his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
And in the build-up to Friday’s game between Sharks and Harlequins, eleven out of the fifteen starting line-up for Sale chose to remain standing while Sam Hill, Simon Hammersley, Tom Curry and Marland Yarde knelt in support of the movement.
The starting fifteen all wore anti-racism t-shirts, while every Quins player knelt for BLM. The players that chose to stand have yet to clarify why they opted not to take the knee.
Prior to Friday’s opener, Sharks captain Jono Ross said that his side were united in being opposed to racism in all forms.
‘As a squad, we are all completely against racism in all forms, and I think we’ll make that clear on Friday,’ he said via The Independent. ‘I don’t think anyone in our squad or across the Premiership is racist.
‘We’ll show on Friday night that we are against racism in all forms, and as a squad we will be united in showing that.’
Sharks chief Steve Diamond added: ‘Every club is joining in – in one way, shape or form – in our stance against racism.
‘Each club is going to come up over the next couple of days and tell the club they are playing against and the league what they are doing, but it is unanimous that all the clubs are doing something.’
English football has put on a united front in supporting the BLM movement since it returned from lockdown. Every player in the Premier League and Championship knelt in the moments before kick off of each game for the remaining fixtures.
However, Formula One has seen divisions among drivers with regards to kneeling in support of BLM. Before last weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, seven drivers remained standing while the rest of the grid, including Lewis Hamilton, knelt.
Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat have all steadfastly refused to kneel, although they have stressed that they remain in support of anti-racism.