Zaha first Prem player not to kneel pre-game

Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has become the first Premier League player to not take a knee before a game since the demonstration began last season.

Players and officials have been taking a knee before games since protests began following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 while in police custody

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Zaha, who has previously said taking a knee before every game is “degrading” and called for tangible change instead of being used to “tick boxes,” opted to stand before his side faced West Brom on Saturday.

“The whole kneeling down — why must I kneel down for you to show that we matter,” he told the On The Judy podcast. “Why must I even wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my top to show you that we matter? This is all degrading stuff.

“When people constantly want to get me to do Black Lives Matter talks and racial talks and I’m like, I’m not doing it just so you can put ‘Zaha spoke for us.’ Like a tick box, basically.

“I’m not doing any more because unless things change, I’m not coming to chat to you just for the sake of it, like all the interviews I’ve done.”

The Ivory Coast international came up through Palace’s academy and has spent 11 seasons of his senior career with them. He is not expected to face a punishment.

Premier League CEO Richard Masters said earlier on Saturday that players would continue to take a knee before games until the end of the season.

“It is a big statement, it was player-led. We spent a lot of time talking to players. It was an emotional time during the pandemic,” Masters told Sky Sports.

“Going back to Project Restart, when we were talking to players, they wanted to make a statement about their thanks to the NHS and key workers and to make a stand against the events in America last summer.

“We were happy to support the players. Perhaps for the first time, we had the Premier League, clubs and players on the same page on an important issue.