Millwall fans BOO as players take the knee before Derby clash, leaving talkSPORT host stunned and drawing condemnation from the FA and EFL
A section of Millwall fans BOOED players for taking the knee ahead of their Championship clash against Derby County.
Lions supporters returned to The Den for the first time in ten months on Saturday afternoon, as 2,000 were allowed back in following the end of the second national lockdown.
They gave their team a raucous reception as they emerged from the tunnel, with talkSPORT host Adrian Durham reflecting on a jubilant atmosphere as he presented GameDay Live at the stadium.
But that atmosphere took a sour turn moments later, as some of the crowd then jeered when players took the knee before kick-off in support for the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality.
It was clearly audible to talkSPORT listeners, and Durham was shocked and saddened by the reaction from the returning fans.
“It’s customary now up and down the land that respect is paid, the players take the knee… and there’s an adverse reaction from the Millwall fans – wow,” he said.
“That is not good at all, questions will be asked about that for sure, that is a SHOCKER. It had all been going so well.
“I can’t really believe what I’ve just heard. it was all joy, it was all love, it was all laughter, everybody was happy, fans are back in at The Den to support their team and then the players take the knee and there’s booing all round from the 2,000.
“I can’t believe it. It’s taken the wind out of my sails a little bit.
“I just wonder what someone like Mahlon Romeo, who is playing at right-back for Millwall today, I wonder what he felt when he heard that noise when he took the knee?
“The whole thing is unacceptable.”
You can listen to the moment as it happened live on talkSPORT by clicking on our radio player at the top of the page.
The Football Association condemned the behaviour of the Millwall fans, who had discussed the gesture of taking a knee on their fans forum ahead of the return of spectators.
A spokesperson for the FA 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.”
Derby forward Colin Kazim-Richards, who stood raising a fist instead of kneeling at the start of game, described the incident as an “absolute disgrace”.
He said on Twitter: “First of all so proud of my team @dcfcofficialthe guys all of us stuck together and grinded out a massive result!! Everyone at the club has bought in and I’m sure we going to see the results!!
“But having to say this is a pain but I’ll say it every single damn time this is why I STAND and STAND PROUD and I have to say every single person involved with @dcfcofficial did too made me proud to wear this shirt with the boys today!!! Absolute disgrace.”
The EFL also expressed their disappointment over the actions of the supporters.
“We are disappointed that a small group of supporters have today chosen to voice their opposition to such activities directly aimed at raising awareness of the fight against racism,” read their statement.
“We remain committed to working with our clubs, including Millwall, who undertake a significant amount of work on equality and inclusion initiatives, as we continue with our collective objective to eradicate all types of prejudiced behaviour.”
Sanjay Bhandari, chairman of Kick It Out, praised the players for “defying the hate shown by some fans”.
He said: “What this demonstrates is that players are right to continue standing up to discrimination, whether that is through taking the knee or speaking out.”
Millwall boss Gary Rowett, meanwhile, was left frustrated that the return of fans had been overshadowed.
He said: “I’m disappointed that we are talking about that when we should be talking about the fact we are all back and we want to enjoy the football match again.
“The club do an enormous amount of work on anti-racism and the club do a lot of work in the community and there is some really positive stuff, so of course I am disappointed.”
The incident cast a shadow on what should have been a pleasing day for Wayne Rooney, who celebrated his first win as Derby’s interim manager with the 1-0 success.
Rooney said: With everything that has been going on in recent months, it was very surprising.
“I don’t want to say much about it, but all I can say is everyone at Derby County Football Club, we obviously took the knee, and no one condones that behaviour.”