COLLINGWOOD and Richmond footballers united pre-game on Thursday night in a powerful show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Players from both sides and the umpires gathered in a circle in the middle of the MCG and kneeled for 30 seconds in a symbolic gesture against systemic racism.

>>WATCH the gesture in the player above

The same action previously became prominent among athletes, including former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, in the United States' NFL when the national anthem was played before matches.

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There will be similar player-led gestures throughout round two.

Players and umpires take a knee for Black Lives Matter. Picture: AFL Photos

The Black Lives Matter protests started in the United States in reaction to African-American George Floyd's death in an incident with a police officer in May, and made their way to Australia and other countries.

Channel Seven commentator Bruce McAvaney recognised the players' actions and the greater issue of racism during the station's broadcast.

"Tonight's gesture is one of support, unity and respect, driven by the Collingwood and Richmond playing groups," McAvaney said.

"We stand in solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and all people of colour. There is no place for racism.

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"The knee is an expression of that support. We see strength in diversity – it makes us better as a football club and as a community.

"We will be there for each other always, especially at a time when many have been impacted by what is happening around the world.

"We will continue to learn and walk this journey together." 

Richmond players warmed up in black t-shirts. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he backed the footballers' public stance against racism.

"It's a very important issue for our players, for our clubs and the AFL," McLachlan told Channel Seven on Thursday morning.

"Racism needs to be stamped out."

Hawthorn star Chad Wingard, whose side faces Geelong on Friday night, is one of several AFL players who has highlighted racial inequality in Australia.

There have also been strong showings of support at AFL clubs' training sessions in recent days.