BERLIN — Hertha Berlin nodded to social struggles in the United States by kneeling before its Bundesliga home game on Saturday.
"We wanted to make a stand against racism," Hertha captain Per Skjelbred said after their 2-0 loss to Schalke.
Hertha’s starting lineup linked arms and took a knee on the pitch, while Pal Dardai’s coaching staff, general manager Michael Preetz, club officials and substitutes took a knee off it before kickoff.
"Hertha BSC stands for tolerance and responsibility! For a tolerant Berlin and an open-minded world, now and forevermore!" the club said on Twitter.
"Hertha Berlin stands for diversity and against violence. For this reason we are joining the protest of American athletes and setting a sign against discrimination," the stadium announcer told more than 50,000 fans attending the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, originally built for the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
The action was intended to show solidarity with NFL players who have been protesting police treatment of blacks and social injustice in the U.S. by kneeling, sitting or locking arms through the anthem before games.
Last year, then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement, which has been harshly criticized by President Donald Trump.
"We’re no longer living in the 18th century but in the 21st century. There are some people, however, who are not that far ideologically yet," Hertha defender Sebastian Langkamp said. "If we can give some lessons there with that, then that’s good."
Ivory Coast forward Salomon Kalou said the whole team was unanimous in its support for the action.
"We stand against racists and that’s our way of sharing that. We are always going to fight against this kind of behaviour, as a team and as a city," said Kalou, who acknowledged the action was inspired by the American athletes’ protest against discrimination.
"It shouldn’t exist in any kind of event, in the NFL or in the football world, soccer as they call it there. It shouldn’t exist in any sport, period," Kalou said.