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‘Bottled it’: Football club accused of appeasing racists after ditching Black Lives Matter kneeling in favor of stars linking arms

‘Bottled it’: Football club accused of appeasing racists after ditching Black Lives Matter kneeling in favor of stars linking arms
The English football club at the center of a huge row after fans booed players for taking a pre-match knee at the weekend has announced that it will drop the gesture, receiving fresh criticism over a plan for players to link arms.

Championship side Millwall strongly condemned fans who booed players while they took a knee before a match at their home ground of The Den on Saturday, creating a political storm on the first weekend in which supporters had been allowed to return to stadiums for elite matches.

Now the club appears to have backtracked on the gesture by announcing that its team will not repeat the symbolism when they return to the scene on Tuesday, with teammates instead linking arms ahead of their match with near-neighbors Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

The move was reportedly agreed during an "explosive" video call on Monday, when representatives from both clubs spoke to their counterparts from the Football Association, English Football League, Professional Footballers' Association and anti-racism group Kick It Out.

"Players from Millwall and Queens Park Rangers will stand arm-in-arm with each other in a show of solidarity for football’s fight against discrimination ahead of kick-off at The Den on Tuesday night," the club said in a statement.

"Millwall believe that this gesture, which the club hopes to repeat with other visiting teams in the coming weeks and months, will help to unify people throughout society in the battle to root out all forms of discrimination."

Both teams will also hold a banner in an act that the club called a "positive move" and claimed had received support from all of the organizations involved in the meeting.

Leaders vowed to ban anyone found guilty of racial abuse for life and said that some QPR players would still be taking the knee, while the Kick it Out logo will replace the Lions' sponsor on players' shirts for the game.

The announcement appeared to be just as divisive as Saturday's controversy, with critics variously praising the club for ditching the taking of the knee, which is seen as synonymous with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign, and accusing the club of being weak.

"Millwall have bottled it and won’t be taking a knee any more," said one, responding to a tweet that revealed the fans at the game would be likely to include those who booed on Saturday as a result of the way limited tickets are being allocated during the pandemic.

"So I guess we’ll never know if their fans are repentant. Not sure people suddenly become not-racist overnight, so maybe it's best for football that it is papered over with slogans on shirts."

Others were relieved. "See - that wasn’t hard, was it?" one asked. "Simply change it from grovelling on their knees for the anti-Semitic, violent BLM and make it a more over-arching, anti-racism and anti-discrimination campaign which everyone can and should get behind."

Supporters of taking the knee said that Millwall should have taken the same approach as Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling, who publicly offered fans who booed a refund on their season tickets on Monday.

"It isn’t a stand against racism," blasted one. "It’s pandering to racists - shame on Millwall and QPR."

Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party known for his forthright political views, welcomed the decision.

"If footballers stand arm-in-arm in solidarity and stop taking the knee to BLM, there will be no protests," he declared on Twitter, racking up thousands of retweets and likes. "Time to get BLM out of the mainstream debate."

Millwall also announced that they would be widening their community work and carrying out their first-ever audit of board members and staff, promising "equality, diversity and inclusion in all areas of operations."

Also on rt.com Piers Morgan scorched after calling Millwall football fans ‘idiots’ for booing kneeling players