The German soccer federation (DFB) said Wednesday that players should not be punished for displaying on-field messages protesting the killing of George Floyd and racial injustice.
Several Bundesliga players displayed messages and made gestures denouncing racial discrimination last week after Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis. In combination with the recent police killing of Breonna Taylor and the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, Floyd's death sparked protests across the U.S. and worldwide.
"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, as quoted by the Associated Press. "Therefore the players' actions have our respect and our understanding."
Weston McKennie, Jadon Sancho, and Achraf Hakimi honored Floyd with written messages calling for justice, while Marcus Thuram took a knee after scoring a goal for Borussia Monchengladbach. Sancho was shown a yellow card for removing his shirt to reveal the words "Justice for George Floyd" on his undershirt. Hakimi, his Borussia Dortmund teammate, only lifted his jersey to reveal the same message, and was not booked.
McKennie, who had "Justice for George" featured on an armband during a Schalke match, made another statement Wednesday, publishing a video on Twitter that combined footage of police brutality against black people with a number of athletes saying: "Enough is enough."
Further demonstrations could take place during the league's next round of matches this weekend.
"We discussed it. … We maybe have to do something because we cannot give something like this a place," Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich said. "We as footballers, like with Sancho, have a lot of power to reach other people, to be role models and to say something. What we say to people outside gives us a big chance to make a statement."
FIFA backed that stance earlier this week, with president Gianni Infantino saying that anti-racism messages like those emanating from the Bundesliga "deserve an applause and not a punishment."