London soccer club Millwall said it was “dismayed and saddened” after its fans jeered as players took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
After issuing no statement in the wake of Saturday's game against Derby, Millwall stopped short on Sunday of directly condemning its own supporters, or mentioning what specifically happened. It was the team's first game with fans since February due to the pandemic.
Players in English football started to take a knee in June to show support for the fight against discrimination following the death of George Floyd in the United States. Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died in May after a white police officer pressed his knee against his neck as he said he couldn’t breathe.
“Millwall Football Club was dismayed and saddened by events which marred Saturday’s game against Derby County at The Den," the League Championship club said. “The club has worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare for the return of supporters and 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 impact of such incidents is felt not just by the players and management, but by those who work throughout the club and in its academy and community trust, where so many staff and volunteers continue passionate endeavours to enhance Millwall’s reputation day after day, year after year."
Booing was clearly heard from some fans in the stands containing Millwall supporters as both sets of players made the symbolic gesture after the referee blew the whistle to signal the start of the match.
Millwall said it wants to use Saturday's incident as a “catalyst for more rapid solutions" and plans meetings with anti-racism activists.
“There is much work to be done and at Millwall everyone is committed to doing all that is possible, both individually and collectively, to be a force for good and to ensure that the club remains at the forefront of football’s anti-discrimination efforts," Millwall said.
A member of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet said people should be free to express their views as they wish.
“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,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said after being shown footage of Millwall on Sky News. “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.”
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The Associated Press