The return of some fans to football in England this weekend has been marred by controversy after players took a pre-match knee to support Black Lives Matter (BLM), leading to booing at one game and a range of outraged responses.
Defender Mahlon Romeo was furious and striker Colin Kazim-Richards responded by lifting his fist as some supporters at London club Millwall, where 2,000 fans were allowed to attend for the first time during the pandemic, could be heard booing from the stands while the gesture was carried out before kick-off in a Championship match.
Both sets of players were accused of performing another empty gesture, while a wider argument broke out about the politicisation of sporting events and the disconnect between liberal campaigning and personal choice.
“The fans who have been let in today have personally disrespected not just me but the football club,” Millwall star Romeo told the South London Press, angrily adding that the match had been made “irrelevant” by the reaction of the fans while claiming that their boos demonstrated the ongoing problem of racism in society.
Crowds at Millwall boo players taking the knee. I’m not sure why clubs are still doing this? BLM, outside of the laudable slogan, is now a political party and one with aims to overthrow the state, defund the police and to divide us as much as possible! pic.twitter.com/WziolE7g81
Sorry, these gestures have no place in football. Deal with racism but stop this inane, divisive virtue signalling.
This is what courage looks like. As Millwall morons booed players for kneeling to show solidarity against racial injustice – one man @ColinKazim stood up to them in heroic defiance. 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/vfGtuyzasP
“What they’ve done is booed and condemned a peaceful gesture which was put in place to highlight, combat and stop any discriminatory behavior and racism. That’s it – that’s all that gesture is.
“And the fans have chosen to boo that, which for the life of me I can’t understand. It has offended me and everyone who works for this club – the players and the staff.
“I’m speaking on behalf of myself here – not any of the other players, I want to make that very clear. This is the first time I feel disrespected.
‘My personal view is that Black Lives Matter is a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.’George Eustice reacts to footage of Millwall fans booing footballer’s for taking a knee.https://t.co/7d85kNDhUMpic.twitter.com/cOVJjki8i0
Yes but we have the Kick It Out Campaign which works already. This is different. To me it is subservient gesture to say “I’m sorry!” Sorry for what, being alive 300 years after some horrible things happened? If so then I do not need to be part of it hence the shout “Get on!”
No, what *you* need to understand is that a minuscule 5 second kneeling gesture, to remind people that treating people badly based solely on their race is unacceptable is not ‘a protracted moral lecture’. If people can’t observe it or see the point of it, *THEY* are the problem.
“I’m almost lost for words. I don’t know how they thought that would make me feel. I don’t know what they thought taking a knee stood for.”
Many fans and political figures clearly remained unconvinced and confused, voicing their frustrations and misgivings with an act that has frequently seen athletes criticized after exercising their right not to take part in the US.
“Why all the fuss about Millwall fans making their views known when their players take the knee?” asked Susan Hall, of the Greater London Authority Conservatives.
There’s also a fairly simple ideal.That you can go (and pay) to watch a football match to enjoy football & a little escapism from the ‘real’ world, without politics.It’s like saying that every facet of life has to have a political point.Will they take the knee at the opera?
So at the next millwall game when teams take the knee before the game, will be interesting to see what happens. What millwall did yesterday was underline exactly why it needs to happen because despite all the coverage, the message isnt hitting home with certain groups. Inc you
I actually agree with Paul on this one. It was a powerful moving act of solidarity the first time. Now it’s part of the routine, it’s lost its meaning just like the clap for carers went on too long. It should be done every now and then not before every single match
“They are entitled to their views. I’m not in the least surprised they dislike the subservient gesture. BLM is now a political group wishing to defund the police. Ludicrous.”
BLM’s official website calls for an investment in communities rather than law enforcement. “We know that police don’t keep us safe,” it argues.
“As long as we continue to pump money into our corrupt criminal justice system at the expense of housing, health, and education investments, we will never be truly safe.”
Black and White Together. 🤍🖤@rosenior_liam23, @TheCurtisDavies, @DuaneHolmes and @GeorgeEvans70 on why the Rams will continue to take the knee before matches.Read the full feature in 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗮𝗴𝗲 for free👇
I find it more disturbing that now players and sport in general know what BLM are about they continue with this nonsence.
“Quite shocking” is how a presenter on @SkyNews just described Millwall fans booing players taking the knee yesterday. It wasn’t shocking at all. Not to anyone living in the real world. It was entirely predictable.Fans don’t want divisive woke politics at football matches. 🤷🏻♀️
The display of discontent could herald more examples across the coming months as limited numbers of fans return to stadiums in the UK, echoing the row during and after an FC Dallas match in the US in which booing could be heard from around 3,000 fans.
Dallas defender Reggie Cannon called the reaction “disgraceful” and “absolutely disgusting” adding: “You’ve got fans booing you for people taking a stand for what they believe in.
“Millions of other people support this cause. We discussed with every other team and the league what we’re going to do and we’ve got fans booing us in our own stadium.”
#Millwall have released the following club statement
Why all the fuss about Millwall fans making their views known when their players ‘take the knee’ ? – they are entitled to their views. I’m not in the least surprised they dislike the subservient gesture. BLM is now a political group wishing to defund the police. Ludicrous
My god… George Eustice just told @SophyRidgeSky the Millwall morons who booed players taking the knee should ‘always be respected.’ What a shameful response from a Govt minister.
The UK environment minister, George Eustice, did not condemn the booing but told a TV news program that racism in football should be “called out and challenged”.
“My personal view is that Black Lives Matter – capital B, L and M – is actually a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality,” he said.
“Each individual can take their own choices about how they reflect this and I know a number of people feel quite strongly and have taken that approach.
“With everything that’s been going on… it was very surprising, no-one condones that sort of behaviour”Derby caretaker manager Wayne #Rooney after Millwall fans booed both sets of players as they took knee in support of Black Lives Matter yesterday. pic.twitter.com/3oePFUm2cI
Millwall fans showed their disgust to kneeling players at the first match they were allowed to attend. The look on players faces as the loud thunder of boos was omitted from a small crowd allowed to attend. Well done lads for showing the way. You set an excellent benchmark 👍
Personally I’m glad the millwall fans booed the kneel because now you will see if there is a genuine attempt from the fa to remove this mindset from the game or if all this kneeling is just tokenism
“If people choose to express their view in a particular way, that should always be respected.”
Millwall, who have spent decades attempting to improve their reputation after incidents of racial abuse from the stands, issued a statement shortly after Eustice’s remarks saying they were “dismayed and saddened” by the boos.
“The club has worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare for the return of supporters,” they said.
“What should have been a positive and exciting occasion was completely overshadowed, much to the immense disappointment and upset of those who have contributed to those efforts.
“The players are continuing to use the biggest platform they have to support the drive for change, not just in football but in society generally.”
Long-serving Romeo warned fans not to “spread hatred” and claimed the booing had “basically f*cked off” the club’s community efforts, which he said had been “undone and attacked”.
“I feel really low – probably the lowest I’ve felt in my time at this club,” the 25-year-old admitted.
“I’m not trying to stop or contain – but if your beliefs and views oppose a positive change in society then don’t come to a football ground and spread them around.
“When fans are booing a peaceful gesture to highlight racism, it naturally makes you ask yourself, ‘why am I putting myself through this?’
Millwall players had previously issued a statement announcing that they would continue to take a knee until the end of 2020.