Millwall fans marked their return to The Den on Saturday by booing the players taking a knee before the match against Derby. When both sets of players dropped to the ground to send out an anti-racism message, there were audible complaints from the stands, which had members of the public in for the first time in almost nine months.
There were fears before the match that Millwall supporters would take such action, with the players and management confirming they would continue taking the knee regardless. Some supporters of the club had called on the team to stop making such a statement due to its links to Black Lives Matter and politicisation.
Before the match, a club statement said: “We are fully supportive of the efforts in ridding the sport, and society, of all forms of discrimination. It is our duty to reinforce the positive messaging. Taking the knee, for us, is in no way representative of any agreement with political messaging or ideology. It is purely about tackling discrimination.”
Two thousand supporters were permitted to attend the fixture in London, although away fans were not allowed to travel to the match. It is the first time since government guidelines changed that spectators have been allowed to watch elite sport in person.
The actions of the fans was criticised by any, including former West Ham and England winger Trevor Sinclair, who tweeted: “Reality is Millwall fans booing players taking a knee doesn’t surprise many!!!”
Former Nottingham Forest and Cardiff player Greg Halford said: “What am I seeing at the Millwall game. The players take the knee and the 2000 fans are booing. The efl [sic] have to be strong and take serious action against this. Every time I’ve played there I’ve heard a form of racist abuse this has got to stop.”
Footballers have been taking the knee since the return to playing following a Covid-enforced hiatus earlier this year between March and June in order to raise awareness of the inequalities in society following the death of George Floyd in America. Players also wore the Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts.
The EFL have allowed the players and teams to make their own choice on whether they take the knee. Championship clubs QPR and Coventry have decided against continuing with the gesture.