Taking a knee – used by some to represent support for the Black Lives Matter campaign – has been called a “symbol of subjugation and subordination” by the foreign secretary.
Dominic Raab suggested he would not follow the lead of footballers who marked the Premier League’s return by getting down on one knee to express solidarity with the fight against racial inequality.
He said it is a “matter of personal choice” but that he would only take a knee for the Queen and his wife.
The symbolic gesture was popularised in 2016 when NFL star Colin Kaepernick got down on one knee while the US national anthem played before games.
Kaepernick’s protests sparked controversy, with Donald Trump saying team owners should sack players who took a knee during the anthem. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017.
“What Kaepernick wanted to do was raise awareness of the continuous police brutality,” Professor Louis Moore from Grand Valley State University previously told Sky News.
Bending a knee has become more widespread in recent weeks due to the killing of an unarmed black man in the US, George Floyd.
Some politicians, including Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner have joined in, too.
Asked if he would take a knee, Mr Raab told TalkRadio: “I understand this sense of frustration and restlessness which is driving the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve got to say on this taking the knee thing – which I don’t know, maybe it’s got a broader history that seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones.
“It feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation.
“But I understand people feel different about it so it’s a matter of personal choice.”
Pressed again to say if he would take the knee he added: “I take the knee for two people – the Queen and the missus when I asked her to marry me.”
David Lammy, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said the comments were “insulting” to the anti-racism campaigners and “deeply embarrassing” for the cabinet minister.
Mr Raab later clarified his comments, tweeting: “To be clear: I have full respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the issues driving them.
“If people wish to take a knee, that’s their choice and I respect it. We all need to come together to tackle any discrimination and social injustice.”
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