Crystal Palace

Why Wilfried Zaha became first Premier League player not to take the knee

Max Cooper
Zaha stood alone during the taking of the knee
Zaha stood alone during the taking of the knee / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player not to take the knee before a match, releasing a statement prior to kick off that explained his belief that the action is no longer making a difference to society.

The 28-year-old was true to his word prior to kick-off against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon, as he remained standing while every other player took the knee on the referee's whistle.

Zaha released a statement via his management company RocNation immediately after kick-off, explaining that 'whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse.'

"My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now," the statement began. "There is no right or wrong answer but I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and at the moment it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse.

"I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes at the Premier League and other authorities to make change, and I fully respect that, and everyone involved. I also fully respect my teammates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.

"As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people who abuse others online - not just footballers. I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall."

Zaha has often spoken out over the racial abuse he has received in the past, and this was highlighted in July 2020 after a 12-year-old boy was arrested for sending vile messages via social media.

The Crystal Palace star is the first Premier League player to opt against taking the knee, and his choice could see a change in attitude towards the action in the top flight.

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