England players knee World CupGetty Images

Why are England players kneeling at World Cup 2022 games?

Athletes across a number of different sports have knelt during the build-up to games as an act of silent protest or else to send a message of solidarity.

Sometimes referred to as 'taking the knee', the peaceful gesture was commonplace in football from 2020 on following the death of George Floyd, with teams notably doing it at Euro 2020 across Europe and in the Premier League.

It is not seen as often as before, but the England players have decided to do it at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. GOAL takes a look at the reasons behind the decision.

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Why are England players kneeling before World Cup 2022 games?

England head coach Gareth Southgate revealed that his players would 'take the knee' at World Cup 2022 to send a message to young people "that inclusivity is very important". The Three Lions boss explained that the gesture is a symbol of what his team stands for.

While England did not kneel ahead of their pre-World Cup games in the UEFA Nations League, their manager believes that it was important for them to do it on the biggest stage.

Jude Bellingham England World Cup 2022Getty Images

"We have discussed 'taking the knee'. We feel we should [do it]," Southgate told reporters in Qatar ahead of their opening game against Iran. "It's what we stand for as a team and what we have done for a long period of time.

"Of course, we understand that in the Premier League the clubs have decided to only do that for certain games, on big occasions. We feel this (the World Cup) is the biggest [occasion].

"We think it's a strong statement that will go around the world, for young people in particular to see that inclusivity is very important."

What is the meaning of 'taking the knee'?

The act of taking a knee to kneel is a symbolic form of protest against racism, injustice and police brutality.

It is a gesture that has been performed by ethnic minorities for decades, but became notable in sport in 2016 when American football star Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the American national anthem in protest at racial inequality and police brutality.

United States women's national team star Megan Rapinoe emulated Kaepernick's protest on a number of occasions, citing a desire to "spark some meaningful conversation" around the question of rights and liberties.

As noted by Southgate, for England players, the gesture is an act of solidarity, which aims to project a message that inclusivity is important.