Arsenal‘s icon and France legend, Thierry Henry, spent the first 8 minutes and 46 seconds of Montreal Impact’s game against New England Revolution, on his knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter and social justice movement.
The duration Henry spent on his knee represents the length of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd before he died on the spot in May 2020. The death of the 46-year-old African-American in the hands of the white police officer sparked mass protests against racism, social injustice and discrimination across the world.
On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, when the Major League Soccer is Back Tournament was about to kick-off, over 100 players from different MLS clubs stormed to the pitch wearing mostly black T-shirts with different inscriptions like “Black and Proud” and “Silence is Violence” in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Orlando City Soccer Club and Inter Miami CF that played the first game of the tournament knelt for exactly 8 minutes and 46 seconds with their right-hand fists in the air to add their voices to the agitation.
Though Minnesota prosecutors said the police officer that brutally killed Floyd in broad daylight knelt on his neck for 7 minutes, 46 seconds, 8:46 which was earlier reported as the exact time the police spent on Floyd‘s neck, has become a symbol of police brutality in the United States.
Thierry Henry who has been the manager of Montreal Impact since last summer decided to add a new spice to the demonstration on Thursday when his team played their first match in the MLS is Back Tournament against New England Revolution. Though the match ended 1-0 against Thierry Henry’s team, he left the ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida with the belief that he has passed a strong message.
He did that in style by wearing black on black and with a Black Lives Matter customised T-shirt. “I sat down for 8 mins and 46 seconds, I guess you guys know why,” Henry said after the match. “It was just to pay tribute and show support to the cause. That was basically it. [It’s] pretty simple.”
This is not the first time the former Arsenal and Barcelona star has demonstrated against discrimination and racism in particular. During his playing days, he partnered sportswear company, Nike, to stage the”Stand Up Speak Up” campaign against racism in football. In 2007, he was featured as one of the “Heroes & Pioneers” on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
“I always say back in the day, when stuff like that was happening, that I get insulted on the field for the colour of my skin … I would like other ethnicities in my team to walk out before I walk out, then that would be pretty powerful”, he told ESPN on Wednesday.
“Because at the end of the game, I don’t want the journalist to ask the question to the Black guy. Ask the question to everybody and see if they feel our pain. That will have an impact.”