'I hope England lose in first round of Euros': Laurence Fox joins row over footballers kneeling

‘Mixing politics and football has disastrous consequences’: MP compares England team taking the knee to national side’s infamous Nazi salute in 1938 – as Laurence Fox blasts ‘millionaire woke babies protesting inequality on £200,000-a-week’

  • Brendan Clarke-Smith controversially invoked the shameful episode in a blog
  • Said taking knee is seen as ‘political’ act, not just showing opposition to racism
  • Joins fellow Tory MP Lee Anderson and actor Laurence Fox in criticising gesture 

A Tory MP today compared England players taking the knee to the national side’s infamous pre-WWII Nazi salute – as Laurence Fox blasted ‘millionaire woke babies protesting inequality on £200,000-a-week’.

Brendan Clarke-Smith controversially invoked the shameful episode before a friendly with Germany in 1938 to demonstrate that ‘mixing politics and football’ has ‘disastrous consequences’.

The MP for Bassetlaw said that taking the knee is now seen as an expression of support for Black Lives Matter, a ‘political movement’ which had argued in favour of ‘crushing capitalism, defunding the police, destroying the nuclear family and attacking Israel’.

Footballers have taken to kneeling before every game for the past year in a defiant message against racism after BLM protests spread the gesture around the world following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.

After a minority booed the stance ahead of Wednesday’s win over Austria, manager Gareth Southgate urged fans to support players making the gesture against discrimination, but this failed to convince some sections of the crowd who continued to jeer at the second England warm-up game on Sunday.

Writing on a Facebook blog, Mr Clarke-Smith, 40, disagreed with Southgate, arguing that despite their ‘admirable’ desire to express their opposition to racism, footballers taking the knee would be considered to be endorsing a BLM, a ‘political movement’.

He mentioned England’s friendly with Germany in 1938, describing how officials convinced players including Sir Stanley Matthews to ignore their concerns about taking part in a Nazi salute by reassuring them it was a ‘formal gesture of courtesy’, not an endorsement of the regime.

The players ‘reluctantly’ agreed, Mr Clarke-Smith noted, adding: ‘The point here is that regardless of the original intention, the mixing of politics and football had disastrous consequences. Symbolism means a lot, both in football and wider society, and we must think carefully about how it is used.’ 

Brendan Clarke-Smith controversially invoked England's decision to perform a Nazi salute before a 1938 friendly with Germany (pictured) to demonstrate that 'mixing politics and football' has 'disastrous consequences'

Brendan Clarke-Smith controversially invoked England’s decision to perform a Nazi salute before a 1938 friendly with Germany (pictured) to demonstrate that ‘mixing politics and football’ has ‘disastrous consequences’

Some England fans booed players kneeling before kick off against Romania on Sunday evening

Some England fans booed players kneeling before kick off against Romania on Sunday evening

Mr Clarke-Smith

Actor Laurence Fox slammed the England squad for kneeling ahead of their final Euros warm-up against Romania on Sunday evening as the anti-racism protest continues to take place

Mr Clarke-Smith (left) is the latest figure criticise taking the knee, after Laurence Fox (right) said he hoped England would lose in the first round of the Euros

England’s Nazi salute shame before 1938 Germany friendly

Swastikas and the British flags were flown side by side in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium before England defeated Germany 6-3 on May 14, 1938.

But the victory was a mere footnote in the story.

Before the friendly match, the England team lined up alongside their German counterparts for pre-match ceremonies.

Captain Eddie Hapgood and his men were forced to perform it as a gesture of diplomacy as part of the British government’s policy of appeasing Hitler.

It provoked outrage in the British press, who were bewildered by English players performing the fascist salute, especially considering the Nazi leader was not even present.

The order had come in advance from the British Foreign Office and was part of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s plan to avoid conflict.

It came two months after Germany annexed Austria and paved the way for Chamberlain’s ‘Peace in our Time’ deal with Hitler – which led to the Nazi leader’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Appeasement didn’t work – just over a year later, Hitler invaded Poland prompting Britain and France declared war.

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Mr Clarke-Smith is the latest high-profile figure to weigh into the debate, after Laurence Fox said he hoped England would lose in the first round of the Euros. 

Southgate has said the players had explained so many times that the gesture did not represent some of the more extreme views of the Black Lives Matter group that those choosing to ignore that are doing so deliberately. 

But Mr Fox slammed ‘millionaire woke babies protesting inequality on £200,000 a week’ after portions of the crowd jeered while players knelt before a friendly against Romania on Sunday at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. 

In a string of Tweets shared on Sunday night, Fox said: ‘I’m embarrassed to be British. I hope any team but ours wins in any future sporting endeavour.

‘Tell me a single thing to moderate my thinking? Millionaire woke babies protesting inequality on two hundred grand a week.

‘We deserve everything that is coming. Weak men. Weak.

‘My prayers are with Croatia, The Czech Republic and Scotland. Knock these woke English babies out.

‘My whole life I’ve wanted England to win at football.

‘From a sofa with glandular fever during Italia 90 and Salvatore Schillaci, to a traffic jam in west London in an overheating mini listening to England beat Holland 4-1 in 96. Tw*tter rant over.’  

Meanwhile, Conservative MP for Ashfield and Eastwood Lee Anderson said the FA had made a ‘big mistake’ in supporting taking the knee, claiming that Black Lives Matter ‘aims to undermine our way of life’.   

The jeers returned to the Riverside Stadium for the second time in five days, where an experimental and inexperienced England earned a 1-0 victory through captain Marcus Rashford’s second-half penalty.

Despite the dissatisfaction from some members of the crowd, a number of fans tried to drown out the discontent with a round of applause for the players.

All England players and all but two of the Romanian squad took the knee ahead of the clash

All England players and all but two of the Romanian squad took the knee ahead of the clash

Labour politicians including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell have called fans booing the knee ‘racist’. 

But Tory MP Lee Anderson, 54, called BLM – which popularised the gesture in the UK – a ‘Marxist organisation’. 

He told The Times: ‘The FA, Premier League and footballers now run the risk of becoming like the Labour Party and that is having nothing in common with their traditional supporters. 

Tory MP Lee Anderson said he plans to boycott England over the FA backing taking the knee

Tory MP Lee Anderson said he plans to boycott England over the FA backing taking the knee

‘All forms of racism are vile and should be stamped out, but this is not the way. 

‘For the first time in my life I will not be watching my beloved England team while they are supporting a political movement whose core principles aim is to undermine our way of life.’ 

Mr Anderson was supported by Jonathan Gullis, the Tory MP for Stoke-on-Trent North. Gullis, 31, said BLM was ‘a Marxist organisation that wants to abolish the nuclear family and defund the police’.

Marcus Rashford, who captained England in Middlesbrough on Sunday evening, said of the booing: ‘It’s something we can’t control. We’re going to continue to do it.’ 

The Three Lions have made the anti-racism stance in every match since international football resumed last year and will continue to do so despite some negative reaction when supporters returned on Wednesday.

Southgate said the team were ‘collectively disappointed’ about the negative reaction in midweek, which was the first England match played in front of fans since November 2019. 

The Three Lions boss urged fans to respect the players’ stance, while the FA are understood to have considered using the public announcement system at Middlesbrough to urge fans to respect the gesture.  

‘I think I sadly sort of expected what happened to happen,’ he said.

‘We’ve accepted that, as a group. It isn’t going to stop what we are doing and what we believe. It certainly isn’t going to stop my support for our players and our staff.

‘That’s it, we are going to have to live with that. We’ve said what we are going to say now.

‘You are right to ask the question today but moving forward, it is pointless me going into any further detail on that.’

He later added: ‘I would ask people to reflect on how they would feel if they were an England player, a young England player, just about to represent their country and hearing basically the team being booed.’ 

Yet supporters still opted to voice their disapproval of players kneeling, with boos heard at the Riverside Stadium while a number of fans tried to drown out the discontent with a round of applause for the players.

Gareth Southgate urged fans to get behind the players ahead of kick off in Middlesbrough

Reflecting on the most recent episode of booing, ITV pundit Ian Wright remained adamant that those opposing kneeling can still be educated on the subject.

‘You focus on the game but you’re still explaining it and they’re still booing. You’ve got to still try and reach those people,’ he said at half time. 

Taking the knee was devised as a peaceful way to make a point about racial injustice by American footballer Colin Kaepernick, along with US Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer, who had objected to Kaepernick sitting out the US national anthem and suggested an alternative.

Players took the knee before every match of the Premier League season, but there have been repeated instances of the gesture being booed after fans returned to stadiums. 

There were several jeers during the Leicester v Chelsea clash at the FA Cup Final but these were quickly drowned out by applause. 

Mr Clarke-Smith's Facebook blog post in which he criticised England players for taking the knee

Mr Clarke-Smith’s Facebook blog post in which he criticised England players for taking the knee 

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