Palace's Zaha becomes first Premier League player not to take the knee

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha stands as players take the knee
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha stands as players take the knee Mike Hewitt POOL/AFP
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London (AFP)

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player not to take a knee in solidarity with the anti-racism movement before Saturday's match against West Bromwich Albion.

Ivory Coast international Zaha stood tall while the rest of his Palace team-mates and their opponents kneeled just before kick-off at Selhurst Park.

The 28-year-old revealed last month when speaking at the Financial Times' Business of Football summit he would no longer perform a gesture which has been followed by Premier League players, officials and staff since June.

"My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now," Zaha said in a statement released on Saturday.

"There is no right or wrong decision, but for me personally 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 team-mates 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 joins Championship clubs Millwall, Derby, Bournemouth and Brentford in no longer taking part in kneeling before matches.

The gesture was brought in as a way to promote the anti-racism message after the death in police custody of George Floyd in the United States last May sparked a rise in Black Lives Matter protests.