Millwall supporters booed their own players while they took the knee in support of the fight against racism at The Den this afternoon.
The scenes have prompted reactions from pundits and former players including Trevor Sinclair, Gregg Halford and Gary Lineker, who told his Twitter followers the Millwall fans not booing were in the ‘minority’.
The day marked the first time that fans were able to attend a game in person since lockdown began in March.
As 2,000 supporters were permitted to attend, it also marked the first time fans have been present since footballers started to take the knee before games.
The gesture has been carried out by players and staff across the country originally in support of Black Lives Matter, before the Premier League distanced itself from the movement.
Not all teams continue to take the knee before games, with Queens Park Rangers’ director of football Les Ferdinand saying the impact of the stance had been ‘diluted’.
As their match against Derby County was about to begin, video footage taken from the ground shows that there were a large number of aggressive boos from the stands as the players knelt down.
Millwall fans booed after players took the knee ahead of their Championship clash with Derby
Supporters were allowed back into The Den for the first time since the Covid outbreak in March
In response, the FA said in a statement: ‘The FA supports all players and staff that wish to take a stand against discrimination in a respectful manner, which includes taking of the knee, and strongly condemns the behaviours of any spectators that actively voice their opposition to such activities.’
The scenes sparked shockwaves through the game, and have divided social media users.
Some players, pundits and fans have condemned the fans’ actions while others say the gesture is no longer appropriate.
On Twitter, Gary Lineker, said: ‘Let’s be fair, it only appears to be a small minority of Millwall fans that didn’t boo the players taking the knee.’
Trevor Sinclair, who was sacked by the BBC for racially abusing a police officer while being arrested for drink driving in 2018, slammed the Millwall fans.
He wrote: ‘Reality is Millwall fans booing players taking a knee doesn’t surprise many!!!’
Former Nottingham Forest and Cardiff footballer Greg Halford also criticised the fans, saying: ‘What am I seeing at the Millwall game.
‘The players take the knee and the 2000 fans are booing. The efl have to be strong and take serious action against this.
‘Every time I’ve played there I’ve heard a form of racist abuse this has got to stop.’
Former England defender Micah Richards described the scenes as ‘disheartening’.
Gary Lineker joined other former players who condemned Millwall fans’ behaviour on Twitter
Speaking to the BBC, he added: ‘There are 2,000 so you can pinpoint the people going. There are no excuses. I am sick to death of talking about this situation.
‘It is so disheartening because it is like we have come so far but we have so far to go.
‘I don’t even like talking about the matter. It feels like it falls on deaf ears. It is time and time and time again.’
Inbetweeners actor Blake Harrison said: ‘Sad and embarrassed to be a Millwall fan today.’
Anti-racism campaign Kick It Out said: ‘We are saddened by the behaviour of fans booing the players taking the knee today at Millwall.
‘What this demonstrates is that players are right to continue standing up to discrimination, whether that is through taking the knee or speaking out.
‘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.
‘We applaud the players for taking a stand and defying the hate shown today.’
Players have been taking a knee since July and Gary Rowett and his squad confirmed they would continue the gesture in a statement earlier this week.
There had been calls on the club to abandon the practice, as a handful of other Championship sides have done in recent months.
But Rowett and his squad said it was their duty to reinforce the positive messaging in the fight against racism.
The statement released by Millwall read: ‘We are fully supportive of the efforts in ridding the sport, and society, of all forms of discrimination.
‘It is our duty to reinforce the positive messaging.
‘Taking the knee, for us, is in no way representative of any agreement with political messaging or ideology.
‘It is purely about tackling discrimination.’
The death in Minneapolis of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes sparked protests around the world, with many demonstrators kneeling in streets and squares to protest against racism.
The position was taken by National Football League (NFL) player Colin Kaepernick during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to call attention to racial injustice, and has been adopted by many sports players since.
Football players originally started taking the knee when the 2019-2020 season resumed in June.
The Black Lives Matter slogan also appeared on football players’ shirts.
However, the Premier League and EFL made the decision to replace the BLM slogan on shirts after growing concerns the movement has been hijacked by extremists.
Players in the Premier League now wear ‘No Room for Racism’ while EFL shirts bear the message ‘Not Today or Any Day’ in support of their ongoing campaign against all forms of discrimination.
Milwall’s players and manager Gary Rowett confirmed they would continue the gesture in a statement earlier this week
Players from both clubs took a knee before kick-off as part of the on going fight against racism
Queens Park Rangers made the decision to stop taking the knee in September with director of football Les Ferdinand saying the gesture had ‘reached a point of ‘good PR’ but little more than that’.
He added: ‘Taking the knee was very powerful but we feel that impact has now been diluted.
‘In the same way ‘Clap For Carers’ was very emotional for us all, it got to a stage where it had run its natural course and the decision was rightly made to stop it.
‘No one is more passionate than me about this topic. I have spoken on the matter throughout my footballing life.
‘I work for one of the most diverse football clubs in this country. A lot of people are being fooled out there.
‘What are our plans with this? Will people be happy for players to take the knee for the next 10 years but see no actual progress made?
‘Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will.’
The EFL decided to allow individual players and teams in the Football League to make their own decision on whether to continue taking the knee while the gesture still takes place in the Premier League.
Coventry are another team who have opted not to take a knee this season.