Côte d’Ivoire’s Zaha opts not to take a knee before Palace v West Brom game

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Leeds United at Selhurst Park on November 7, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Côte d’Ivoire winger Wilfried Zaha on Saturday chose to stand rather than take a knee before kick-off in the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion making good on his word that he would no longer do so because he felt the gesture had lost its meaning.

FILE PHOTO: Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Leeds United at Selhurst Park on November 7, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

In doing so, Zaha became the first Premier League player not to take a knee since the introduction of the gesture in June last year in protest against racial discrimination.

He, however, is not the first to stop taking the knee in English football as Championship sides Brentford and Bournemouth last month said they would no longer do so.

Zaha had said at the Financial Times Business of Football summit in February that he would stop taking a knee because the gesture was “degrading”.

“My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks,” Zaha said in a statement explaining his actions.

“There is no right or wrong decision, but I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and whether we kneel or stand, some of us continue to receive abuse.”

“I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes at the Premier League and other authorities to make change, and I fully respect that, and everyone involved.”

“I also fully respect my team-mates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.”

Zaha has insisted that more needs to be done in educating people in schools and social media companies needed to take “strong action” against perpetrators of online abuse.

The 28-year-old’s return helped Palace secure a first win in three league matches and complete a double over the relegation-threatened Albion.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

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