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Premier League players announced en masse Wednesday that they're launching a charity fund to support Britain's National Health Service (NHS) workers during the coronavirus crisis.
In a coordinated announcement on social media, dozens of top-flight players declared their support for the "Players Together" initiative, which will be used "to distribute money to where it's needed most in this COVID-19 crisis."
The centralized fund aims to help "those fighting for us on the NHS frontline as well as other key areas of need."
The fund, which is independent of any decision between Premier League clubs and players regarding salary cuts, was in the works before discussions around player wages turned sour. Top-flight clubs publicly insisted last week that footballers should take a 30% pay cut, but the players' union balked at that figure.
The players had previously come under fire from Britain's health secretary, Matt Hancock, who last week urged them to "play their part" during a pandemic that has now claimed over 7,000 lives in the United Kingdom.
"Football is trying to do a lot of good. To wake up and see footballers being painted as villains was a bit of a surprise," Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend said of the situation, echoing Rooney's sentiments.
"(Hancock) is coming out and deflecting onto the easy targets, the footballers, and that doesn't sit right with me."
Hancock applauded the players for their "big-hearted" decision shortly after the collective initiative was announced Wednesday. "You are playing your part," he wrote on Twitter.
The Premier League, like all major football competitions in Europe, continues its hiatus as the continent grapples with the outbreak. There are over 61,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom.