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Weeklies divided on taking the knee at Euro 2020

June 21st, 2021

None of the print weeklies support the practice of kneeling down on the pitch in sign of protest against racism nor do any of them approve of Hungarian fans who booed the Irish side when they were taking the knee before a preparatory match for the European championship. On the other hand, they strongly disagree on whether such gestures should be banned from sports events.

In one of its twin first-page editorials, Magyar Narancs accuses Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of condoning the Hungarian fans who booed the Irish team from the grandstand (see BudaPost, June 14) and finds him thereby guilty of fomenting hatred. The editors concede that teams may have respectable reasons not to kneel down, but describe the behaviour of the Hungarian football league when siding against the gesture of kneeling sown as cowardly, as they ‘hide themselves’ behind the authority of UEFA and FIFA (the European and the international football federations). In fact, those two bodies didn’t mind teams either taking the knee or not before the games. At any rate, the editors continue, whistling and booing is simply rude and uneducated, therefore when Prime Minister Orbán said the Hungarian fans had been ‘provoked’ by the gesture of the Irish players, he in fact sided with the reaction of the booing fans.

In Demokrata, Eszter Párkányi points out a contradiction between UEFA’s neutral stance on taking the knee and its general rule whereby politics has no place on the pitch. She welcomes the attitude of the Hungarian team who wore the word ‘respect’ on their shirts in support of UEFA’s policy against racism while refusing to kneel down. She also approves the decision by the International Olympic Committee to ban the gesture of kneeling down or raising fists from the Tokyo Olympics. Refusing to take the knee has nothing to do with Nazism, fascism or racism, Párkányi suggests, as the left-wing mainstream alleges. Such gestures only serve to divide fans into two opposing camps, she warns.

In Magyar Hang, Tamás Péter defends the right of anyone to support identity politics but deems it unacceptable to practically impose political gestures onto a whole team. He himself doesn’t agree with victimhood politics because he believes that instead of solving problems, it only creates new ones. In fact, he explains, they generate unnecessary tensions which will erode the credibility of the movements which struggle against real injustices. Otherwise, Péter writes, political activism should be kept outside the pitch, where people should represent causes that unite rather than the ones which divide the public.