Written by by Nicholas Jones, CNN
England footballers have been refusing to stand for the national anthem ahead of World Cup qualifiers. It’s not a partisan, political issue, but a step taken by some to bring a greater awareness to racism in football.
Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy, Theo Walcott and Fabian Delph made a point of declining to stand when the national anthem played ahead of the team’s most recent match — a 4-0 win over Slovenia in September.
“The people who are behind the England team have done so for the right reasons, that’s why they have,” said Adam Sandler, 46, a sports blogger and writer for the Guardian. “When you look at the pros and cons, there are pros to do what they did.”
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Before Rooney, it was Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who took the stands during a home match.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of a number of black players to speak out against racism, and was forced to apologize after he used an offensive word in an interview with the media.
News of the player’s decision sparked controversy and prompted “rare” anti-racism demonstrations on social media, according to Steve Reed, the FA Chairman
Speaking at an FA forum on anti-racism, Reed said there was a real danger of it turning into a wider debate about whether there was racism in football, the FA said in a statement.
“We need to make sure that we have a proper and robust debate and now is the time for us to do that rather than just point fingers,” Reed said.
“That issue will be around us in the next four or five years and if we are not part of the debate we should be.”
Steve Reed said that “many black and ethnic minority players were shocked and appalled” by Rooney’s actions.
“It is clear he hasn’t even been on the floor for many years,” said Reed. “This issue is quite complex.”
The FA in July welcomed a report into the causes of racism in football with the review noting that racism was an “ascendancy” and further study was required.
The players who refused to stand in September were not arrested. However, Rooney, who signed for DC United last month, was questioned by Scotland Yard in June over an alleged sexual assault last September.