Dominic Raab, the U.K. foreign secretary, has been criticized after saying that taking the knee comes from the “Game of Thrones” TV series.
Raab, who led the country while Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized with COVID-19, also said the gesture “feels to me like a symbol of subjugation, subordination.”
The gesture — in which people kneel with one knee on the ground — has been adopted around the world as a peaceful protest symbol since the death of George Floyd on May 25.
When asked on Britain’s TalkRadio whether he would take a knee, Raab replied that he would only do so for two people — “the queen and the Mrs., when I asked her to marry me.”
In full, he said: “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 but it seems to be taken from ‘Game of Thrones,’ feels to me like a symbol of subjugation, subordination, rather than one of liberation and emancipation. I understand people feel differently about it, it’s a matter of personal choice.”
A number of British politicians, including the Labour Party’s Diane Abbott, slammed Raab for his comments.
Raab later issued a statement on Twitter: “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.”
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick brought taking a knee into the spotlight in 2016 after protesting police brutality and social injustice by kneeling during the traditional playing of the U.S. national anthem before football games.
Aside from being used at demonstrations across the world in recent weeks, sports stars have also used the gesture to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Premier League soccer players took a knee on Wednesday before the kickoff of the league’s first matches since the season’s suspension earlier this year. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” replaces players’ names on the backs of their shirts.
Responding to Raab’s comments, Labour MP David Lammy said: “This is not just insulting to the Black Lives Matter movement; it is deeply embarrassing for Dominic Raab. He is supposed to be the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: “The foreign secretary should educate himself before he makes such damaging comments. He’s out of touch, out of order.”