Millwall fans who booed Black Lives Matter protest condemned by their own players and FA

Tom Morgan
·3-min read
Millwall fans who booed Black Lives Matter protest condemned by Football Association - GETTY IMAGES
Millwall fans who booed Black Lives Matter protest condemned by Football Association - GETTY IMAGES

Millwall supporters sparked outrage on Saturday after booing players from their own team and Derby County who were taking the knee in solidarity with the fight against racism.

Jeers were clearly audible among a significant proportion of the 2,000-strong crowd at the Den, voicing apparent disapproval at the politicisation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Anti-discrimination campaigners condemned their “scandalous” actions which took place as the Den opened its doors to fans for the first time since March for the 1-0 Championship defeat by Derby.

Most angry of all was Millwall defender Mahlon Romeo, who was initially shepherded away from talking to the press. He later told local reporters the game had “become irrelevant”. “The fans who have been let in today have personally disrespected not just me but the football club,” he said.

Boos rang out when players sank to the turf before kick-off, despite the club clarifying beforehand that they were demonstrating only against racism rather than radical ideology.

Colin Kazim-Richards, the Derby striker, branded the jeers an “absolute disgrace”, while the Football Association said it “strongly condemns” the scenes.

Wayne Rooney, the Derby caretaker manager, added that he was “saddened” and it was “very disappointing and upsetting for a lot of people”. Some other clubs have abandoned the protest since the start of the season, but Millwall players decided to continue, with the club telling fans prior to the match that “it was in no way representative of any agreement with political messaging or ideology”.

Ged Grebby, of Show Racism Red Card, expressed dismay at their conduct, saying Millwall had worked harder than almost all other clubs in clamping down on racism.

Gary Rowett, the Millwall manager, added that the scenes were “disappointing” after “the club have done so many positive things in the community on anti-discrimination”.

The BLM demonstrations had begun over the summer following the death of George Floyd in America, but displays have continued despite a notice of application for a UK-wide BLM political party being published by the Electoral Commission. BLM UK has distanced itself from the political group, but the Premier League dropped its explicit association with BLM in September, with logos dropped on shirts in favour of the No Room For Racism campaign.

“The players have spoken about it and said that they don’t support it as a political message,” Rowett added. “They support anti discrimination and that is why they have done it.”

Grebby told Telegraph Sport: “We’re not lumping all the Millwall fans together, but the minority have certainly let the club down. Millwall have done probably more than most clubs to fight racism, so the last thing they want is a minority of their fans doing this. It’s staggering it’s against their own players as well.”

Millwall had feared a reaction to the gesture in advance of the game, and had released a statement explaining why they were persisting with it until the new year despite several other Championship clubs abandoning it.

“As a squad we are fully supportive of the entire football family’s efforts in ridding the sport, and society generally, of all forms of discrimination,” read the statement, which was issued on Friday.

Sanjay Bhandari, the chairman of Kick It Out, added: “What this demonstrates is that players are right to continue standing up to discrimination, whether that is through taking the knee or speaking out,” he added. “The fight for racial equality continues and we will continue to work closely with clubs across the country to tackle discrimination in all its forms.