Journalist Dan Hodges says the UK needs an alternative to taking the knee – here’s what Twitter thinks

The debate surrounding Britain’s handling of racist abuse continues to rage on, with politicians accused of “stoking the fire” of vitriol, and social media companies under increasing scrutiny for their screening of offensive content.

Now, a Mail on Sunday commentator has thrown his hat into the ring, offering his analysis of taking the knee.

After England players were booed for carrying out the emblematic move, and Home Secretary Priti Patel branded it “gesture politics”, Dan Hodges suggested the country needs “a new anti-racist symbol”.

He tweeted on Wednesday morning that since “many fans do not back taking a knee”, we need something “people can unite behind” and “everyone can have ownership of”.

His assessment sparked a fierce response on Twitter, with fellow journalist Jason Okundaye asking: “Who the hell are you to tell black football players what solidarity symbol they can use?”

Culture writer Okundaye and Hodges were soon locked in a fiery argument on the platform, with the former positing: “Your projection that everyone would ‘unite’ behind a particular symbol is fallacious.

“People will always scramble for a problem, no matter how many clarifications, because they want anti-racism out of football. These fans harassed black players *before* the knee. They will continue to harass and jeer them after.”

He went on: “There is no universal consensus on anti-racism and that denies the fact that people are booing and jeering because they are racist and want to continue indulging in racism.”

But Hodges hit back: “Of course there’s not going to be a universal consensus. But 35% of people oppose TAK (taking a knee). 35% of people do not boo or jeer TAK, or abuse black players.

“So we need to find a way of bridging that divide that doesn’t involve simply saying ‘shut up and accept it, you racist’.”

Taking the knee gained attention in American football in 2016 as players protested against police brutality and racism in the US.

The symbol of anti-racism solidarity has since spread further and was adopted by footballers in the UK, partly to demonstrate that racism should not be tolerated in the sport.

Along with Okundaye, scores of Twitter users strongly disagreed with Hodges’ suggestion that the act should be ditched in favour of a “home-grown” alternative.

Here’s what they had to say:

Hodges continued to defend his stance, asking if the nation should “simply brand the 35% of people who don’t support taking a knee - not people who boo, but who don’t support that specific gesture - as ‘a**holes’. And just carry on regardless.”

The answer, in many people’s eyes, was simple:

Asked what his “preferred symbol/gesture” would be, Hodges replied that it was “up for discussion.”

“To be honest, anything,” he said. “Hand-shake. Arms around the teams. If people are worried that’s too passive, a power salute. Just something that’s seen to be moving the debate forward.”

Meanwhile another user argued that if taking the knee was deemed unacceptable by swathes of the population, so too is the St George’s flag. In which case: “Surely we need new symbols to represent England/GB/UK?”

In a separate tweet, they added: “Colin Kaepernick began his protest against racial violence by sitting and refusing to stand to the anthem. He received so much abuse about sitting disrespecting veterans, that he chose a different protest.

“He chose to kneel, because kneeling is universally seen as respectful.

“Move forward a couple of years and here we are again being told to change the form of protest. Why? Kneeling is Marxist apparently.”

They concluded their powerful thread: “So let’s stop playing silly little games/culture wars Dan.

“The simple reality is that the affront to those who hate people taking the knee isn’t the kneeling. Just like it wasn’t the sitting.

“It’s the challenge to racism that they have an issue with.”

We just hope there will come a time when no anti-racism symbols are necessary, but, at the moment, it feels like there’s still a long way to go...

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