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Tory MP compares England footballers taking the knee to Nazi salute
7 June 2021, 12:52 | Updated: 7 June 2021, 13:08
A Tory MP has compared taking the knee to a Nazi salute amid the ongoing row over whether England footballers should make the gesture at the European Championships.
In a controversial Facebook post, Brendan Clarke-Smith labelled the gesture "habitual tokenism" and said he was "highly critical" of the team's decision to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against racism.
He said the group's aims, which he claims include "crushing capitalism, defunding the police, destroying the nuclear family and attacking Israel", go beyond an anti-racist message and reminds him of the fascist dictatorships which emerged in 20th-century Europe - including Nazi Germany.
The Bassettlaw MP, first elected in 2019, wrote that Sunday's friendly match against Romania had "special significance" for him due to his connections with the country, claiming the "ruthless communist regime" under Nicolae Ceausescu follows a similar "ideology" to those leading the BLM movement.
"Whilst the intention may be admirable and we all want to put a stop to racism in football and wider society, it now comes across as little more than habitual tokenism and has lost its effect," he said.
The politician compared the gesture to England's team being instructed to perform a Nazi salute at a game in Germany in 1938.
Most of the team performed the salute believing it was a cultural gesture but those who refused were kicked out the squad.
He has joined a growing number of Conservative MPs who have expressed outrage at their "beloved England team" taking the knee, with Lee Anderson threatening to boycott games if the team continues.
But England manager Gareth Southgate vowed to support players who are choosing to take the knee, defying a minority of booing fans and insisting the gesture is against racism and not support of a "Marxist" movement as some have suggested.
The Three Lions boss asked for supporters not to boo on the eve of this final Euro 2020 warm-up game at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesborough but, as they did on Wednesday night, hecklers ignored his pleas and continued to boo before the game began.
Following Sunday's match against Romania, Southgate said: "I think I sadly sort of expected what happened to happen. We've accepted that as a group.
"It isn't going to stop what we are doing and what we believe. It certainly isn't going to stop my support for our players and our staff.
"That's it, we are going to have to live with that. We've said what we are going to say now.
"You are right to ask the question today but moving forward, it is pointless me going into any further detail on that."