The England and Bath wing Anthony Watson has insisted there is no point forcing Premiership players to take a knee before matches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after it emerged some have expressed concerns over doing so this weekend.
Representatives from all 12 clubs met via conference call on Tuesday to discuss how best to show support but, in the absence of any directive from Premiership Rugby or the Rugby Football Union, sides are expected to come up with differing gestures.
Harlequins host Sale on Friday night in the first Premiership match since March and both sides are intent on showing a united front against racism. But there has been a degree of reluctance over taking a knee within the league because of concerns about expressing support for any political messages associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. The former England wing Ugo Monye, a Guardian columnist, has been heading up a working group with a statement on behalf of the players expected this week.
When the Premier League restarted in June all clubs were unanimous in taking a knee but Watson believes making Premiership players do so against their wishes defeats the object of the movement. “It’s massively important for rugby to get behind the movement, and not just rugby but across the board, sport in general. It’s important to make an impact where you can,” he said.
“You have to give people a choice, because as soon as it is forced on anyone to have to do anything it becomes pointless. The whole point is for it to mean something. I don’t think anyone should have the option taken away from them. It’s important that it is very individualised.”
Monye has confirmed he will take a knee on Friday, where he will be working for BT Sport, and his former club Harlequins are expected to do likewise. The Sale captain, Jono Ross, was tight-lipped as to what his side had planned but was forthright on the issue. “I don’t think anyone in our squad or across the Premiership is racist,” he said.
“We’ll show on Friday night that we are against racism in all forms and as a squad we’ll be united in showing that. As a squad we’re all completely against racism in all forms and I think we’ll make that clear.”