Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie said the decision to kneel or not before Saturday’s Six Nations game against England at Twickenham was “completely down to personal preference”.
The back rower was commenting after criticism of the Scots at the moment of reflection on anti-racism prior to the Calcutta Cup game. Four members of the squad knelt and the remainder stayed standing.
Ritchie, one of those who stayed standing, said “anyone who kneeled I’d back 100% and anyone who stood I’d do the same.”
‘It was down to personal choice’
“We weren’t told before the game ‘we’d like you to kneel’ or ‘we wouldn’t like you to kneel’. It was down to personal choice,” he said. “I don’t think anyone who didn’t kneel was disagreeing with anything that was being put forward. I think it is 100% right that rugby is acknowledging the anti-racism movement.
“The guys standing in quiet reflection are in full support of it.
“Whether boys did kneel or didn’t kneel, it wasn’t something we discussed before the game. It was completely down to personal preference. Anyone who kneeled I’d back 100% and anyone who stood I’d do the same.”
‘It was to take the time to reflect and think about the message’
This was the first game Ritchie had been involved in during the current season which anyone had taken the knee, he pointed out.
“I was not surprised, because I know the England guys have been doing it and the guys who play in the Premiership have been doing it,” he said.
“But as I say it was down to personal preference at the time. I hadn’t thought about it beforehand. It was to take the time to reflect and think about the message that was being put forward.”
In terms of the criticism that followed, the Dundee-born flanker was philosophical.
‘We’ve not really been stung’
“You can’t please everyone. It’s such a polarising argument, whether to kneel or not to kneel, and who does it.
“Social media can be a pretty vile place at times, although guys are used to it know how to deal with it.
“We’ve not really been stung, and it’s not taken away from how special that day was for everyone involved. It’s just one of those things unfortunately, it comes with the territory of being in the limelight and playing pro sport.”
Price: ‘On the day, I felt it was right to take a knee’
Scrum-half Ali Price, who did kneel, said it was the first time he had done it.
“We were told beforehand that there would be a round of applause for Captain Sir Tom and everyone who has sadly passed away due to Covid, followed by a moment of reflection around racism in sport and in general,” he said.
“For me personally, I’ve never taken a knee in any of the games I’ve been involved in before. It was never a part of any of the build-up to PRO14 games or in the Autumn Tests.
“On the day, I felt it was right to take a knee. But at the same time I could have stood like many of the other players and team-mates did and just had that moment of reflection. I feel like there is different ways to do that.
“It wasn’t something we spoke about. I don’t think there is too much to read into that. Everyone was reflective, everyone was respectful, and then we got on with the anthems and the game.”