Premier League: Aston Villa and Sheffield United players and referee take a knee — and a make a stand

The symbolic and powerful gesture was accompanied by players wearing shirts with their names replaced by the words “Black Lives Matter,” a tribute to the movement which has grown in prominence since George Floyd’s death.

Exactly 100 days after the last Premier League game took place, Villa’s game with Sheffield United was the first of 92 fixtures to be played behind closed doors in the coming weeks, with Manchester City and Arsenal following later on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling contributed to a short video with other major football stars explaining how they are “tired” about the manner in which black people are treated and represented.
Players of Aston Villa and Sheffield United take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to their Premier League match.
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But the moment which may well carry the greatest impact for the Premier League’s “Project Restart” is the show of unity from all involved at a near-empty Villa Park.

“Love that choreographed tribute,” tweeted CNN contributor Darren Lewis. “All players, including referee Michael Oliver, kneeling for a Black Lives Matter tribute at the moment the eyes of the world are on the game after kick-off. Brilliant.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said “the best league in the world’s” return “shows the soft power of UK Sport.”

“The Premier League will be returning and the world will be watching,” added Dowden. “This is hugely symbolic. It’s a boost for our football-loving nation. We need fans to play their part too, watching from home. To keep the home advantage, support from home.”

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