Santiago Abascal gave a stern warning to the Spanish national football team on June 14, 2021 to not take a knee during the Euro 2020 championship.
Throughout the Euro 2020 Championship there were several teams such as England, Wales, and Belgium who took a knee during these games, a gesture that is generally associated with the culturally radical Black Lives Matter movement.
Unsurprisingly, Eastern bloc countries such as Poland, Russia and Ukraine did not partake in the pro-BLM prostrating. According to The Sun, countries like Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, and the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Portugal, and Slovakia did not take a knee.
Before Spain’s opening match versus Sweden on June 14, Chris Tomlinson of Breitbart News noted that Abascal was vocal about the alleged subversiveness of the kneeling. The leader of the populist party Vox made the claim on Twitter: “Disguised as a gesture against racism, some are determined to bring nations to their knees. We are seeing it in sport.”
“Spain must not kneel before those who insult our history and the legacy of a nation that never looked at the color of its skin,” Abascal continued with a picture stating: “Spain Does not Kneel.”
Tomlinson observed, “The Spanish team ended up refusing to take a knee prior to their match against Sweden — which ended in a nil-nil tie — and Sweden didn’t kneel either.”
The Daily Mail reported that Spanish football fans held similar views as Abascal. Spanish football fans went on social media using the hashtag “#SiSeArrodillanApagaLaTele” which translates to “if they take a knee, turn off the TV”, indicating that they were preparing to boycott the Euro 2020 tournament.
Tomlinson noted that Abascal was not alone in his criticism of BLM:
Abascal and VOX are not the only populist-conservative politicians to express anger at their national football players taking the knee.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán criticised the gesture last week, calling it a “provocation”, and agreed with fans who booed players who took the knee.
“We can only see this gesture system from our cultural vantage point as unintelligible, as a provocation,” Orban continued: “The fans reacted the way those who are provoked usually react to provocation. They do not always choose the most elegant form (of reaction) but we have to understand their reasons… I agree with the fans.”
VOX is a fairly young populist party. It was first established in 2013 but remained fairly stagnant until 2019. VOX had its coming out party in November 2019 after it picked up over 3.6 million votes. It’s impressive showing in 2019 made it become the third largest party in Spain.
Abascal is the leader that Spain’s populist right needs. With his bold, unapologetic leadership, Vox will likely make stronger gains in the face of an ever-growing international Left that’s becoming more radical by the day. The nationalist right’s success will largely depend on leaders like Abascal, who galvanize the working class and serve as strong countervailing forces against the international left.