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German soccer league won’t punish players for George Floyd protests

As more players spoke out Wednesday, the German soccer federation said it will not punish those who protest against the killing of George Floyd and racism.

Several players in Germany have made statements with gestures during games or placed messages on their clothing ever since Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25 in Minneapolis after he was detained by several police officers, one of whom pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck.

On Wednesday, Schalke and U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie published a video on social media that mixed footage of police officers using force against black people with clips of leading soccer players and other athletes saying: “Enough is enough.”

Chelsea and U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic took part in the video, as did Bayern Munich and Canada left-back Alphonso Davies, as well as women’s World Cup winner Mallory Pugh of the United States.

The German soccer federation, known as the DFB, or Deutscher Fussball-Bund, said earlier Wednesday it opposed punishing any players for on-field protests related to Floyd’s death because it believes their anti-racism messages match the federation’s own principles.

“The DFB has made a strong stand against any form of racism, discrimination or violence and stands for tolerance, openness and diversity, values which are also anchored in the DFB’s statutes,” federation president Fritz Keller said in a statement.

“Therefore, the players’ actions have our respect and our understanding.”

Sancho’s shirt removal yellow card stands

The statement named four players who protested during last weekend’s games — Achraf Hakimi, Jadon Sancho, McKennie and Marcus Thuram — but made clear the same approach would apply to any future protests.

The federation has not revoked a yellow card given to Sancho. It said Monday that the Borussia Dortmund forward’s booking was for the act of removing his shirt, rather than for the “Justice for George Floyd” message written on his undershirt during Sunday’s 5-0 win over Paderborn.

Achraf Hakimi Mouh was another of the four Borussia Dortmund players who displayed their solidarity with Floyd and the protests over his death sweeping the U.S. (Lars Baron/The Associated Press)

Other players protested by kneeling, like Thuram, or by showing messages on an armband, like McKennie, or on boots, like Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams. Only Sancho received a booking.

There were also social media statements, such as one from U.S. national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who is on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf but isn’t playing because of injury.

Usual rules restrict political speech

Germany’s approach has the backing of FIFA. The governing body of world soccer said Tuesday that such demonstrations “deserve an applause and not a punishment.”

Hungary has taken a different approach. Its soccer league gave a written reprimand to a player of African origin, Tokmac Nguen, who displayed a message in solidarity with Floyd after scoring a goal for Ferencvaros on Sunday.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, is also set to allow messages related to Floyd and anti-racism when the Champions League resumes.

Players are normally prohibited from espousing their views during a match. The laws of the game state that “any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on equipment is forbidden.

WATCH | Protesters in Minneapolis react to the news that all four officers involved in George Floyd arrest will be charged:

Anthony Williams and Rev. Greg Drumwright say they believe the charges against the four officers involved in George Floyd’s death will mark a turning point in U.S. history. 2:58

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