Former Great Britain international Barrie McDermott has taken issue with Israel Folau’s decision not to ‘take the knee’ ahead of Catalans Dragons meeting with St Helens on Sunday.
The players from both sides made a symbolic gesture of solidarity with anti-racism movement Black Lives Matter, but the controversial Australian opted against it.
McDermott feels that Folau is once again drawing negative attention to himself and has ruined an opportunity for the 13-man code to show solidarity on the issue of racism.
“Our attention [is] drawn to somebody who has the right to show how they feel and their beliefs, and their values and principles, but I thought it was just a chance for us all as a game to take the knee and to show solidarity with all our mates,” McDermott told Sky Sports.
“I’m disappointed; I reckon most people will be disappointed. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion; I personally think he got it wrong.”
As an organisation Dragons have defended Folau’s right to make his own mind up about such gestures.
“As a group of players and coaching staff, we spoke about it in-depth, and as a club, we are completely against racism and all for equal opportunity,” said Dragons coach Steve McNamara.
“But there were some players and staff who made the decision not to take the knee.
“That was based on personal choice, they have their own reasons for doing that, and we decided we would respect anyone’s personal choice on the matter.”
‘Taking the knee’ has become increasingly common at sporting events in recent weeks with football’s Premier League allowing players to show their support before kick-off.
In Formula One such gestures have taken place ahead of each race with the FIA now providing an official timeslot for ‘taking the knee’ ahead of the British Grand Prix after some drivers failed to turn up in Hungary.
In the United States, the origin of the BLM movement, Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic became the first NBA player not to kneel during the national anthem since the league resumed in Florida, remaining standing ahead of Friday’s game.