David Baddiel: The Prime Minister is waging a culture war on England’s support.
Boris Johnson has been accused of playing a “culture war game” by comedian David Baddiel, who has urged football supporters to support England’s decision to take a knee at the Euros.
Downing Street has not endorsed the players’ anti-racism gesture, instead issuing a statement urging fans to be “respectful” and stating that the Prime Minister “wants the whole country to get behind” the England squad.
When players took the knee at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough ahead to friendly matches against Austria and Romania last week, they were booed by some supporters.
The players have dismissed the move as a political gesture, claiming that it is being made to underline the message that racism and prejudice will not be accepted.
During Euro 96, football fan Baddiel collaborated with Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds on the song Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home), which has since become an anthem for England fans during big events.
“I don’t know what Boris Johnson should or shouldn’t do,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme when asked if he should say something about the boos. He very likely should.
“Like the rest of the politicians at the moment, Boris Johnson is engaged in a culture war.
“They’ve grabbed anything that looks like this, thinking it will appeal to their followers.
“I believe that will be more on Boris Johnson’s mind than whether or not he should openly support the England squad and what they do.
“I don’t think he’s a football fan in the first place.
“I fundamentally believe that we should rally behind the squad, and the team is doing so, so it’s a positive statement.
“A number of the players have been subjected to racism. It’s fundamentally a great statement, and we should just encourage them to make it.”
England manager Gareth Southgate wrote an open letter to England fans in The Players’ Tribune, saying he has “a responsibility to the larger community to use my voice, and so do the players.”
“It is their responsibility to continue to connect with the public on,” he added. (This is a brief piece.)