There are some, though, who worry that kind of sanctioning only serves to neuter the protest, that by absorbing it into the ritual of every game — the walk from the tunnel, the pregame team photo, the jog into position — it has become “just something we do,” as Wilfried Zaha, the Crystal Palace forward, has put it.
In their eyes, the year of kneeling will soon recede into the past with all of the other campaigns and slogans that soccer has rolled out before, all of them designed to give the impression of demanding change while avoiding the need to institute it.
“Apart from people talking about it, what has actually changed in football?” said Les Ferdinand, a former Premier League striker and now the technical director of Queens Park Rangers. “I did think it was powerful, at the start, but we don’t need more badges or T-shirts or gestures. We’re asking for action.”
Item Number Six
Troy Deeney waited and waited for someone to mention Black Lives Matter. Last June, Deeney, the Watford striker, joined the other 19 captains of the Premier League’s teams on a video call with the competition’s executives to discuss the practicalities of the league’s looming return to action.
The agenda for the meeting ran to six items. Last on the list was how the league and its players might respond to the Black Lives Matter moment. After the fifth subject had been cleared, though, Deeney heard someone say: “Unless anyone’s got anything else to say, we’ll wrap the meeting up there.”
Deeney did have something to say. He and the Leicester captain Wes Morgan, who is also Black, had been exchanging messages during the call. Deeney told Morgan he was going to speak up. “Actually, I’ve got a huge problem,” Deeney said, taking himself off mute. Eight minutes later, by his own account, he finished speaking.