Ivan Toney believes players are being “used as puppets” in taking a knee – and this is one reason why Brentford will no longer be making the anti-racism gesture before games.
The striker, who is the Championship’s top scorer with 24 goals, says the gesture is allowing “people at the top” to rest on the subject and nothing has changed as a result.
Toney has given an insight into why the Bees squad decided to stop doing the gesture, having deemed it was no longer having the desired effect, as they continue to work against prejudice behind the scenes.
“We have had a long discussion about that; why we are not taking a knee,” he told Sky Sports. “Everyone has had their say, and everyone agrees [that] we have been taking the knee for however long now and still nothing has changed.
“We are kind of being used as puppets, in my eyes; take the knee and the people at the top can rest for a while now, which is pretty silly and pretty pointless. Nothing is changing.
“The punishments need to be stronger. You’re going to do so much and, in a way, you have to get that helping hand, but it doesn’t look like it’s coming at the moment. So you have to push for that and hopefully things change.
“You have to try and educate people more but the question is, do people want to be educated? That’s another topic. You can only do so much, you can only try and help certain people. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force him to drink.
“The club is working extremely hard behind the scenes to try and make the extra impact. I think that’s big because the diversity in our team is massive. You have people from different backgrounds and we are all working together towards the same goal. That’s key to have really.
“We are focusing on things behind the scenes at the moment. But come Saturday we won’t be taking the knee. If we come up with something else to do in future then we know we are going to do that.”
Toney was subjected to online abuse in January, which was reported to police, and the 24-year-old believes those committing such acts are being allowed to hind behind anonymity.
Facebook recently announced stricter punishments for violations on their platforms, which includes Instagram, but Toney wants harsher punishments for racism, even from law enforcement.
“I see a few things [that need to be done],” he said. “A big one actually; you should have your identification taken before you sign up to any network like Twitter or Facebook. People will be in charge of their own actions. If anything goes out there, you know this person has done it, know where to locate them; short and sharp.
“Now someone can say something online, the account will get blocked for a bit, give it 24 hours and they’re back online, back at it again. I feel like they’re not going to learn. Or within seconds they can just make another account. So it is very easy for people to do something like that.
“People can hide behind a screen. No one is going to do it at a match, in front of you, like throw a banana at a black player or something. They are very happy hiding behind a screen and being comfortable.
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“There was an incident recently, I put it out there. The media’s been saying I don’t want to take it further. They made it seem like I’m not really bothered. But it’s far from that. It’s because I don’t really think it’s going to go any further.
“They might get a slap on the wrist but, come next week, they can just do it again. So I feel like the punishment has to be harder.
“Like with the Ian Wright situation; I did read his went all the way to court. But they couldn’t punish him because they don’t think it’s going to be… something silly… like there’s no point in doing it. So it’s like; what do we do?
“It’s actually sad seeing that, and I’m sure Ian Wright and the ones that have been through that as well will tell you it’s hard to talk about. It’s getting very repetitive and very silly.
“We are actually looking through our mentions for racist abuse. That should never be the case. Okay people might say you’re rubbish but colour shouldn’t come into the situation. I feel like that is very frequent at the moment. People feel comfortable just throwing things out there not realising people’s feelings.
“Personally, the way things are going at the moment, I think instead of taking the knee they will probably think of something else to do and just cover up for another year or so, and it will just be a continuous thing like that. Whereas there needs to be harsher punishment.”