The Premier League is set to return to action in the UK next week and the jerseys — along with the empty stadiums and socially distanced substitute players — will look a little different. During the first 12 games of the restarted 2019-20 season, players will wear jerseys that feature the words “Black Lives Matter” on the back instead of their surnames, the league confirmed Friday.
After the first round of matches, the jerseys will have an embroidered BLM logo for the rest of the season. Additionally, a heart-shaped patch honoring the National Health Service for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic will also feature on the front of the shirts and teams will have a moment of silence before kick-off to remember those who died due to COVID-19.
In a statement, players from all 20 clubs wrote:
“We, the Players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for All, regardless of their colour or creed. This symbol is a sign of unity from all Players, all Staff, all Clubs, all Match Officials and the Premier League #blacklivesmatter #playerstogether.”
Premier League confirms Black Lives Matter to replace player names on the back of shirts for the first 12 matches of the restart.#BlackLivesMatter logo will then feature on shirts for the rest of the season along with a badge thanking the NHS for their coronavirus work pic.twitter.com/Qst5J08Twm
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) June 12, 2020
According to ESPN, Everton captain Seamus Coleman, Watford’s Troy Deeney and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin led the decision to have the Black Lives Matter slogan above players’ numbers on the back of their jerseys. The League also wrote that it will “support players who ‘take a knee’ before or during matches,” and referees have been told to use their discretion when considering cautioning players who remove their shirt to reveal a slogan in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, according to The Guardian. While there have been calls to implement a similar rule to the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation roles, the League confirmed it will not enforce an analogous rule at this time.
all we’re asking is we are seen as equal, as more than 3/5 of a man, as humans. My heart goes out in solidarity to George Floyd, his family, and all of the countless number of victims that have had their lives taken at the hands of meaningless police brutality.
— DeAndre Yedlin (@yedlinny) June 2, 2020
Soccer players all over the world have spoken out in support of the BLM movement and against police violence against black people, and ESPN reported that several teams plan to take a knee before matches. Last month, England forward Jadon Sancho dedicated his goal to George Floyd in a 6-1 victory for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund. U.S. international and Newcastle defender spoke with Bellerin on a recent episode of his podcast about Floyd’s death and the protests that have taken place in the U.S. Watford’s Andre Gray opened up about his own experiences with racial profiling and racism in the UK, telling The Guardian, “It’s not just about George Floyd and the brutality that is going on in America. It is about what is going on in England and the rest of the world.”
While players are still fighting for social change both on and off the pitch, the games will surely look a bit different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — no fans or ball kids will be allowed at matches, players have been encouraged not to break social distancing rules when celebrating goals and every player and coach will have their temperature checked before entering stadiums. Premier League action is set to resume on June 17 when Aston Villa and Sheffield United kick off against each other, and Liverpool can clinch their first league title in 30 years if they defeat Everton on June 21.