Aston Villa, Sheffield United Players Take Knee to Start Premier League Match

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp, left and Aston Villa's John McGinn kneel prior to the start of the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. The English Premier League resumes Wednesday after its three-month suspension because of the coronavirus outbreak. (Paul Ellis/Pool via AP)

Paul Ellis/Associated Press

In the Premier League’s first match back, players from Aston Villa and Sheffield United briefly took a knee after the opening whistle.

Sky Sports Premier League @SkySportsPL

🎙 – “A powerful image to show football’s social conscience.”

Players from both sides take a knee before kick-off to show support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Watch #AVFC v #SUFC live on Sky Sports PL now: https://t.co/hS2ppOif6Y https://t.co/SbGxZenQOU

Rather than their surnames, players also had “Black Lives Matter” featured on the back of their shirts, which is part of a league-wide campaign for the first 12 matches following the restart. The Premier League released a statement from its players:

“We, the Players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for All, regardless of their colour or creed. This symbol is a sign of unity from all Players, all Staff, all Clubs, all Match Officials and the Premier League #blacklivesmatter #playerstogether.”

Following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Americans began demonstrating to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and demand reforms that will address systemic racism, police brutality and social inequality. The protests have spread to other countries across the world as well.

Villa defender Tyrone Mings was among those who marched earlier this month at an event in Birmingham, England.

The Premier League had been on hold since March 9 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It returned Wednesday to complete the 2019-20 season without any supporters in attendance.

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