As England players took the knee before kickoff in Wednesday’s friendly against Austria — a game also played in Middlesbrough — the gesture was booed by some fans.
‘Strong, strong message’
“The cause is: what are you going to do for it to be better for everybody? Equality. Everybody, and obviously I’m going to talk about my community,” Henry told CNN’s Darren Lewis.
“This is not so much about kneeling or standing — which, by the way, I thought kneeling was a strong, strong message and we all know where it comes from — but then the discussion moved to: are we standing or are we kneeling?”
Racism in England in 2021
But footballers taking a knee and the response of some fans to that act has prompted some soul searching and wider debate as to what it says about racism in England in 2021
“Brexit became an excuse for racism to resurface in the UK and we are seeing that manifest in football now. I don’t think players taking the knee have caused this, I think people taking the knee are trying to address it.
“What’s caused this is government behaviour, government attitudes towards race, failure to tackle racism at a national level and allowing organisations and sports like football to get away with it for years.”
Commenting on the boos ahead of the Austria game, one Twitter user went even further.
Another Twitter user put forward a different viewpoint: “What if some people are booing because they are bored of virtue signalling and nothing actually being done about the issue. Having to see players take the knee when nothing more is happening, no changes being made, etc?”
‘Confused and disappointed’
On Saturday, England manager Gareth Southgate said his team will continue to take the knee before kickoff in all of their Euro 2020 matches.
“The most important thing for our players is to know we are totally united on it, we are totally committed to supporting each other,” Southgate told reporters.
“We feel, more than ever, determined to take the knee through this tournament. We accept that there might be an adverse reaction, we are just going to ignore that and move forward.
“I think the players are sick of talking about the consequences of should they, shouldn’t they. They’ve had enough really.
“Their voices have been heard loud and clear, they are making their stand but they want to talk about the football.”
One member of the England’s Euro 2020 squad — Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips — said he was “confused and disappointed” by the booing ahead of the Austria match.
“I don’t think it’s a great situation, especially for us players,” said Phillips.
“The lads spoke about it afterwards and we came to the conclusion that no matter what happens around it we’re still going to participate in kneeling, and I think that’s a great idea.”
As in Euro 1996, England’s group games will be played at Wembley stadium. The team’s first match is against Croatia on June 13 in front of a 22,000 crowd.
“It was a coming together of all kinds of things — style, hope, politics, culture, commerce, sunshine, under the great brolly of international football.”
What happens before kickoff of Sunday’s friendly against Romania is likely to provide a glimpse of whether the mood surrounding England’s Euro 2020 campaign will be similarly upbeat.