Millwall supporters, back at The Den for the first time in nearly nine months, booed their own players as they took the knee before Saturday’s Championship match against Derby.
Two thousand home supporters were permitted to attend the game for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak began in March following a relaxation of the UK government’s coronavirus restrictions.
Since football resumed in June, players and staff of clubs across the country have taken the knee before kick-off to send out an anti-racism message in response to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
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The Millwall and Derby players did so before kick-off on Saturday, while Rams striker Colin Kazim-Richards stood and gave the power salute. A significant number of the Millwall fans responded with boos and jeers.
The Millwall players had released a statement before kick-off confirming they would continue to take the knee, amid rumours a section of their support opposed what they believe is a political gesture.
“As a squad we are fully supportive of the entire football family’s efforts in ridding the sport, and society generally, of all forms of discrimination,” read the statement.
“The gesture of ‘taking the knee’ before matches provides an opportunity for us to do exactly that and continues to allow all those playing to publicly showcase their support – on behalf of the whole squad – for the fight against discrimination.
“We wish to make clear that taking the knee, for us, is in no way representative of any agreement with political messaging or ideology. It is purely about tackling discrimination, as has been the case throughout.
“We will continue to do this until the start of the New Year when a new and comprehensive anti-discrimination strategy will be announced by the club.”
The Football Association issued a statement in response to the boos, which said: “The FA supports all players and staff that wish to take a stand against discrimination in a respectful manner, which includes taking of the knee, and strongly condemns the behaviours of any spectators that actively voice their opposition to such activities.”
Earlier this week Tottenham and England captain Harry Kane, who had a spell on loan at Millwall earlier in his career, said Premier League clubs should continue to take the knee in order to educate people around the world
However, some people believe the gesture has become a gimmick and has diluted the calls for real social change in the game and wider society.