LONDON (AP) — Three days after jeering teams who took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, fans of English soccer club Millwall respectfully observed the same gesture made by players before another match in the second-tier Championship.
Upon entering the stadium ahead of their team’s home game against Queens Park Rangers, Millwall’s supporters received a printed statement that read: “The eyes of the world are on this football club tonight — your club — and they want us to fail.”
That was after booing was heard from some Millwall fans as players from the London club and Derby took a knee before their game on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Millwall’s players were applauded when they lined up holding a banner which read “Inequality — united for change”. As previously announced, they linked arms — instead of taking a knee — and wore the logo of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out on the front of their jerseys.
QPR players opted to take a knee, having chosen in recent weeks not to make the gesture as they felt it only diluted the BLM movement. There were no audible jeers from Millwall’s supporters.
“I don’t think they necessarily responded to a plea,” Millwall manager Gary Rowett said, “I think they responded to a message that we’re trying to portray, which is anti-discrimination, a fight against inequality, a fight against racism.
“None of us want racism in our society and I think football is a very powerful tool in order to fight it. For me, what we tried to do today was almost create a line between taking a knee being the only gesture and making another form of gesture, which the fans got behind fantastically well. I didn’t hear any negativity, I heard everyone get behind it.”
Rowett said he thought there would people “in the football world, and the world in general” that were hoping there would be more negativity by Millwall fans.
“But I’m proud of the fans,” he added, “and I’m proud of the club for the work they’ve been doing to try and make this a positive thing.”
Players in English soccer have continued to take a knee this season to show support for the fight against discrimination following the death of George Floyd in the United States. Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as he said he couldn’t breathe.
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