English football boss tells fans to ‘stay away’ if they boo players taking a knee – but supporters decry hypocritical intolerance
A section of Colchester’s 1,000-strong support for their League Two game against Grimsby at the weekend were heard booing when the players took a knee briefly before the match started, leading club chairman Cowling to label their actions “ridiculous.”
In a statement issued on Monday, the 60-year-old said anyone taking issue with the protests should “stay away” from the club – even offering to reimburse them if they return their season tickets.
“Maybe those that booed on Saturday might now understand what this gesture means to our club and will at the very least remain silent during future games whilst the players continue to take the knee before each kick-off,” Cowling fumed.
📄 Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling has issued the following statement about Saturday's game against Grimsby Town. 👇 #ColU— Colchester United FC (@ColU_Official) December 7, 2020
“Alternatively, they should just stay away from our club because anyone that still wants to boo now that I have explained the purpose and importance of the taking of the knee is not welcome at our club.
“I will be happy to refund anyone for the remaining value of their season permit if that is the reason they feel they can no longer attend our games.”
The Colchester boss urged fans to applaud while players took a knee, in an attempt to drown out anyone daring to boo the gesture which is strongly associated with the Black Lines Matter movement.
The issue of fans jeering during what has become a pre-match ritual became a hot topic at the weekend as supporters across England were allowed back into grounds for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Fans at Championship club Millwall were heard loudly booing as players dropped to one knee for their game against Derby, earning supporters of the London club opprobrium from large swathes of the UK press and numerous TV pundits.
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— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) December 5, 2020
However, UK Environment Minister George Eustice refused to condemn the booing, saying that the BLM-inspired protests had become politicized.
“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," Eustice 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.”Also on rt.com ‘It is a political movement’: British minister in row as fans boo ‘divisive woke politics’ of Black Lives Matter kneeling (VIDEO)
While the statement from Colchester chairman Cowling was unsurprisingly met with gushing praise, some fans claimed that the stance to keep away any dissenters from the stadium reeked of a lack of tolerance.
One fan said he would no longer attend matches, and others picked up on the ardently left-wing agenda that members of the BLM movement have espoused.
I’m not a Season Ticket holder, but I have attended games intermittently for over forty years. If @ColU_Official no longer supports #FreedomOfSpeech & the #RightToProtest then unfortunately I can no longer support you. @SpeechUnion@oflynnsocial— Angus Allan (@AngusAllan66) December 7, 2020
If the FA branded this “Equality” most sane football fans would be completely onside. Conflation with the organisation BLM (either deliberate or coincidental) is what turns many off. Read BLM manifesto if you want to understand why. It’s as bad as 1980s NF in toxicity.— Derek Suckling (@degsy380) December 7, 2020
Totally agree with Robbie and those that booed should be ashamed....but I also understand the reason for and against taking the knee and my personal opinion is that it now needs to be taking the knee for ALL LIVES MATTER— Graham Howard (@colchestercabbi) December 7, 2020
I'm not sure calling fans opposed the group who vandalised Churchill's statue "ridiculous" is good customer relations. Football needs to tolerate political diversity. You can start by "educating yourself", to borrow a BLM phrase, by reading Brendan O'Neill's @spikedonline article— Andrew Dunn (@AndrewD95952582) December 7, 2020
After the initial booing at Saturday’s game against Grimsby, which Colchester won 2-1, goalscoring hero Callum Harriott had called out the boo boys in the crowd, branding them “ridiculous.”
But with continued accusations of the protests being an empty stunt or politicized gesture, and with anger from disgruntled fans mounting at having the pre-match ritual foisted upon them, it seems unlikely that Colchester and Millwall will be isolated incidents moving forward for the remainder of the season.