‘Bottled it’: Football club accused of appeasing racists after ditching Black Lives Matter kneeling in favor of stars linking 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.
This is the start of a change.— Millwall FC (@MillwallFC) December 7, 2020
Millwall FC - disgraceful. You don’t appease racists. You identify them and ban them and continue with taking the knee.— Steve Waters (@teachwellall) December 8, 2020
#Millwall have bottled it and won’t be taking a knee any more. So I guess we’ll never know if their fans are repentant. Not sure people suddenly become not-racist overnight so maybe best for football that it is papered-over with slogans on shirts.— Aled (@Aled) December 8, 2020
"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.
See...that wasn’t hard was it?! Simply change it from grovelling on their knees for the anti Semitic, violent BLM...and make it a more overarching, anti racism & anti discrimination campaign which EVERYONE can & should get behind! Simple 👍🏻👍🏽👍🏿— UnitedfanManc (@UnitedfanManc) December 7, 2020
Far better than kneeling & supporting the BLM thugs.— CFC Laurence (@laurenceofcfc) December 7, 2020
If footballers stand arm-in-arm in solidarity and stop taking the knee to BLM there will be no protests. Time to get BLM out of mainstream debate.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 7, 2020
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.
It isn’t a stand against racism it’s pandering to racists - shame on Millwall and QPR.— martin s ross (@martinsross1) December 8, 2020
Giving in after one setback is an indication the boo boy racists have won again— Alex Ingle (@Ingle360) December 7, 2020
Disgusting club, Colchester chairman hit the nail on the head, they don’t deserve a place in the football league with that attitude, I feel so sorry for their BAME players.— REBEKKA 🤍 (@rebekkarnold) December 7, 2020
"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.
Just a reminder that you can be both pro anti-racism and anti black lives matter, as am I, and suspect the majority of the country are also. The two aren't contradictory statements.— 🅕🅞🅧🅧🅨 (@FoxxysTweets) December 6, 2020
The Colchester chairman put himself and anyone who agrees with his moronic notion to shame. Well done to Milwall for finding a neutral gesture - not being a symbol for a far left movement.— Aato (@elAato) December 7, 2020
Every player should take the knee still don’t give in to the loud minority because they don’t have to go to games if it upsets the delicate snowflakes so much.— Kieren Rees (@kieren_rees) December 7, 2020
"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