Black Lives Matter: Premier League takes a knee before season restart

Premier League players took a knee before kick-off at Aston Villa versus Sheffield United and Manchester City against Arsenal in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The top-flight restarted on Wednesday 100 days after it was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic and those on the pitch, including the match officials, at Villa Park and the Etihad Stadium knelt down at the start of the game.

Instead of the names on the back of their shirts, players are wearing the words Black Lives Matter for the first 12 fixtures of the season.

A Black Lives Matter logo will also feature on jerseys for the remainder of the campaign.

A joint statement from Aston Villa and Sheffield United said they were "proud to stand in solidarity" with their players and coaching staff in "expressing our collective support for the Black Lives Matter movement".

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Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. The English Premier League resumes Wednesday after its three-month suspension because of the coronavirus outbreak. (Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP)
Premier League players, including champions Manchester City, takle a knee before kickoff in support of the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal takes knee in support of Black Live Matter before the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Billy Sharp of Sheffield United, along with his teammates and opposition, 'Take a Knee' in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the whistle to kick off the match is blown during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Billy Sharp of Sheffield United, along with his teammates and opposition, 'Take a Knee' in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the whistle to kick off the match is blown during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) and Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (R) take a knee ahead of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah 'takes a knee' before the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Sheffield United's Irish defender Enda Stevens kneels during a minute of silence prior to the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by CARL RECINE / various sources / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by CARL RECINE/AFP via Getty Images)
Players kneel during a minute of silence prior to the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by CARL RECINE / various sources / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by CARL RECINE/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal takes knee in support of Black Live Matter before the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Both teams and match officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Keinan Davis of Aston Villa and John Lundstram of Sheffield United take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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VIDEO SHOWS: ARSENAL, MANCHESTER CITY, ASTON VILLA AND SHEFFIELD UNITED PLAYERS TAKING A KNEE AS PART OF THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT

SHOWS:

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, UK (JUNE 17, 2020) (PREMIER LEAGUE / PREMIER LEAGUE PRODUCTIONS - A MAXIMUM USE OF TWO MINUTES. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO USE AFTER 1900GMT ON JUNE 20, 2020)

1. ARSENAL CAPTAIN, PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (NUMBER 14), WALKING ONTO PITCH WITH SQUAD, "BLACK LIVES MATTER" SEEN WRITTEN ACROSS THE BACK OF THEIR SHIRTS

2. MANCHESTER CITY WINGER, RAHEEM STERLING (7) WALKING ONTO PITCH

3. STERLING ON PITCH

4. MANCHESTER CITY MIDFIELDER, KEVIN DE BRUYNE ON PITCH WITH "BLACK LIVES MATTER" ON THEIR SHIRT

5. MANCHESTER CITY SQUAD / STERLING

6. VIDEO MESSAGE IN SUPPORT OF BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT SHOWN ON JUMBO SCREEN

7. PLAYERS AND REFEREE TAKING A KNEE ON PITCH

8. STERLING ON PITCH

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JUNE 17, 2020) (PREMIER LEAGUE / PREMIER LEAGUE PRODUCTIONS - A MAXIMUM USE OF TWO MINUTES. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO USE AFTER 1900GMT ON JUNE 20, 2020)

9. SHEFFIELD UNITED PLAYERS WALKING OUT ON TO PITCH AT VILLA PARK, OLIVER NORWOOD (NUMBER 16) AND GEORGE BALDOCK (NUMBER 2) AT THE BACK GROUP AND ON THEIR SHIRTS YOU CAN SEE THE SLOGAN "BLACK LIVES MATTER"

10. BANNER IN EMPTY STAND, READING: "BLACK LIVES MATTER"

11. REFEREE BLOWING WHISTLE AND HE ALONG WITH PLAYERS TAKE A KNEE AS PART OF THE "BLACK LIVES MATTER" CAMPAIGN

12. ASTON VILLA DEFENDER, TYRONE MINGS, TAKING A KNEE

13. PLAYERS ON PITCH BEFORE KICKOFF

STORY: Premier League players, including champions Manchester City, took a knee before kickoff in support of the "Black Lives Matter" movement as the English season restarted on Wednesday (June 17).

The league returned after a 100-day hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the teams and match officials sent out a strong statement of support for the worldwide protests against racism.

All of the players also had "Black Lives Matter" on the back of their shirts instead of their names which will be a feature for the first 12 matches of the restart.

(Production: Tim Hart)

In the first two games since Premier League soccer was suspended during the coronavirus lockdown, players, clubs and officials honored Black Lives Matter.
In the first two games since Premier League soccer was suspended during the coronavirus lockdown, players, clubs and officials honored Black Lives Matter.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal takes knee in support of Black Live Matter before the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa turns with the ball under pressure form Oliver McBurnie of Sheffield United during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa runs with the ballduring the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang takes a knee before the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Chris Basham of Sheffield United is challenged by Matt Targett of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: John McGinn of Aston Villa battles for possession with Jack Robinson of Sheffield United during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Dani Ceballos of Arsenal is challenged by Kevin de Bruyne of Man City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal chats to Arsenal Head Coach Mikel Arteta during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Oli McBurnie of Sheffield United confronts referee Michael Oliver after he fails to award Sheffield United a goal during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: A detailed view of the Nike Merlin Premier League match ball during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: A member of Aston Villa staff looks on during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: General view inside the stadium during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson collides with team mate Eric Garcia during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City celebrates with teammates Raheem Sterling and David Silva after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: TV pundit Jamie Carragher prepares to present pitch side after the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Thompson/ Pool via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Phil Foden of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images)
Medics in full PPE (personal protective equipment) carry Manchester City's Spanish defender Eric Garcia off the pitch injured during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: General view outside the stadium during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Eric Garcia of Manchester City receives medical treatment during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal and Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City react during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Thompson/ Pool via Getty Images)
Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero walks in the empty stands during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 17, 2020. - The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return today after 100 days in lockdown but behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal has a drink during the drinks break during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Thompson/ Pool via Getty Images)
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The statement added: "In the first Premier League fixture of Project Restart both clubs hope that the act of 'taking a knee' will send a strong message of unity and amplify the many messages of support from Premier League players and the wider football family."

Following City's 3-0 win against Arsenal later that day, manager Pep Guardiola said: "White people should apologise, say sorry for the way we have treated black people in the last 400 years, for centuries.

"I feel ashamed for what we have done to this marvellous black people around the world. It's not a problem about the USA, what happened with Mr Floyd. I think a problem with racism is everywhere.

"Maybe our generation it's too late but hopefully new generations, the young generations, can understand that we are human beings. It's not because of the colour of the skin.

"Every gesture is important but it's a fight day by day, during months and years.

"It's a problem from a long time ago and you have to support them day by day.

"But what the players have done is marvellous and hopefully we can do it with good gestures for the government and every day in the schools and every person every day."

Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta said: "I think it's a very strong message.

"I think it's creating a very unique message around the world, what we are trying to achieve.

"I think some behaviours are going to change hopefully with all the things that are happening and if we can contribute a little bit to that, great."

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League - Etihad Stadium
Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (right) takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester (Peter Powell/NMC Pool)

It was confirmed last week any player who wishes to take a knee before or during matches – which has come to be recognised as a symbolic act in opposing racism in the last couple of years – would be supported by the league.

Several clubs and players in the Bundesliga, the first major European league to resume amid the health crisis, have shown their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has gained traction after the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in Minneapolis last month after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck while in custody, sparking demonstrations across the United States and the rest of the world.

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