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The people booing England players ‘taking a knee’ are an “ignorant minority” who need “educating”, says former England captain Rio Ferdinand.
Ferdinand told the BBC those that booed were “being heard loud and clear”.
He added: “They are part of the problem. These people need to be educated. I think half of them don’t even know what they’re booing for.”
After England were booed by a minority of supporters before their two Euro 2020 warm-up games in Middlesbrough, manager Gareth Southgate said that “some people aren’t understanding the message” with taking a knee, stressing that it is not “a political stand”.
Southgate said his players would continue taking a knee and, in an open letter he wrote for The Players’ Tribune, said it was their duty to “continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, former centre-back Ferdinand said: “If [people who booed] had listened to Gareth Southgate in his press conferences and what the players have said, taking the knee is not about politics.
“There are a lot of people, I feel stupid people, making excuses and using politics as a reason they don’t agree or they’re booing players taking the knee.
“Listen, educate yourself, be informed and then you won’t be booing.”
However, Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith wrote on Facebook at the weekend that taking a knee “now comes across as little more than habitual tokenism and has lost its effect”.
He added that “the mixing of politics and football had disastrous consequences” and questioned whether players “really want to carry the political baggage that comes with taking the knee”.
And England fan Andrew, who was at both games last week, told Radio 1 Newsbeat he booed to show his objection to what he sees as “an identity politics agenda that focuses on black people and skin colour, when as far as I am concerned we are all England fans regardless of colour”.
“Some seem to genuinely believe booing is an act of racism – I reject that,” he adds.
Meanwhile, following the news that “offensive material” in historical tweets by some England cricket players was being investigated, Ferdinand added: “Don’t just punish people, there needs to be an education element that goes alongside it.
“Looking back at our past tweets is right – I feel people need to be shown the wrongs they’ve done – but the bigger element for me is education.
“With punishment alone, these things keep occurring, because there isn’t the education that backs it up.”
‘The lads don’t really want to talk about it any more’
England vice-captain Jordan Henderson believes if fans continue to boo then it highlights that “there is still a problem” to fight.
“As players, we’ve made it very clear that we’ll all stand together against racism and that is the reason that we’ll continue to take the knee and have done over the last few weeks,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“It’s about being together and doing what we think is right, and that’s what we feel is right.
“But I think the lads are starting to feel that they don’t really want to talk about it any more.
“Of course, everybody knows we stand together and you’ll see that in taking the knee, but we want to get on with football and concentrate on that and that’s our focus, really.”
England’s Euro 2020 opener is against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday (14:00 BST).