Millwall boss Gary Rowett has been criticised for not condemning fans over an incident which came prior their game against Fulham.
Rowett has called on football “to find a better way to unify people” than taking the knee after the Cottagers’ players were booed while making the gesture at The Den.
Fulham’s players knelt ahead of the Championship fixture, while Millwall’s chose to stand ahead of kick off – some with a fist in the air as a show of solidarity.
Boos were heard while the footballers performed the gesture and Rowett reckons football’s authorities need to find a “more positive way” of tackling the issue of racism and discrimination.
“If you look up and down the country, there are so many football clubs that do such good work in their communities around equality and anti-racism,” Rowett said after the match, which ended in a 2-1 win for Fulham.
“What we need at the moment is, we need the authorities to help clubs out and find a better way to unify people.
“I don’t want to comment on individual people’s decisions to do that, but we need to find a way to unify people and at the moment 20 seconds, 30 seconds in a game is causing such a rift and divide in football.
“Football is a great spectacle, we’re all privileged to be part of it. It has the power to help communities and help do some really good work behind the scenes. It’s not just our football club, it’s a lot of clubs doing that, but we need help to find a more positive way of making some form of action.”
Millwall revealed their decision to stop taking a knee ahead of matches last season after the act was booed by some of the club’s supporters before a game against Derby County.
Instead, Millwall opted to have their own campaign against racism and inequality before matches, asking each opposing team to join them in linking arms and displaying an anti-racism banner.
Former Leyton Orient player-manager Jobi McAnuff has said that he is disappointed in Rowett for not condemning the fans who booed ahead of kick-off on Tuesday.
“I don’t think we can be any clearer in terms of the messaging behind taking a knee and what it represents. It’s the fight against racism and discrimination. It’s that simple,” McAnuff told Sky Sports.
“When somebody decides to make a racist tweet or shout racist abuse at somebody, that’s a decision. These fans at this football club are making a decision to boo the players taking a knee.
“For me, there’s no other explanation anymore other than they’re opposing equality and that’s as simple as it is.
“Yes, you’re the manager of a football club and might say you can’t control what a fan does when they come in. But what you can do as the figurehead is condemn it in the strongest possible terms.
“That is what I would have liked to have seen. That is why I’m disappointed.”
Mark Bullingham, FA CEO said:
“We stand firmly against all forms of prejudice, so a key pillar of our strategy is to use our influence to deliver a game free from discrimination. We are striving to ensure that football at all levels is a safe environment for all, embracing diversity and inclusion, whilst challenging hateful conduct both on and off the pitch.
“We are very clear on what this symbolic gesture originally stood for 200 years ago and what it continues to stand for today, and that is a fight against injustice, inequality and discrimination. We will support any players who wish to take a stand against racism and discrimination by taking a knee. They have our unequivocal support.”
Richard Masters, Premier League Chief Executive, said:
“Football has come together to make clear that racism, like all forms of discrimination, is totally unacceptable. Our players have expressed their views that they wish to continue to take the knee as a clear symbol against racial prejudice and to highlight injustice. English football is fully supportive and behind them displaying this powerful act. Football has the ability to unify, and we all have a responsibility to continue to make tangible change together.”
Trevor Birch, EFL Chief Executive said:
“The EFL takes the issue of tackling racism and discrimination, in all its forms, very seriously. But we must always strive to do more. That is why we commissioned a comprehensive piece of independent research on the issue of anti-discrimination on a matchday to help guide our approach.
“We have heard the message from players who wish to take the knee loud and clear and they have the EFL’s support. Likewise, we support those who fight prejudice in other ways and we must show respect and support to our Clubs and players whichever way they choose. Both within the EFL and across the wider game we are committed to working collectively as we are stronger when we all work together against discrimination.”
PFA Chief Executive Maheta Molango, said:
“The collective support from football’s stakeholders for players continuing to take the knee sends a strong message that as a game, we are committed to keeping the fight against racism and all forms of discrimination firmly in the spotlight.
“Players are acutely aware of the impact of racism, discrimination and social injustice. As their union, we are in solidarity and offer our full support to our members, who choose to use their platforms to send a peaceful and powerful message to a global audience.”
Tony Burnett, Kick It Out CEO says:
“As we enter a new season of football across the English game, Kick It Out commends the players for continuing to take the knee. Racism and discrimination have no place in football, or anywhere in society, but as the events of the summer have proved, there is still a long way to go until that is made a reality.
“Many fans will be back in stadiums for the first time after a difficult year, and we urge them to respect and support players who have made a collective decision to highlight injustice. The real issue we all want to address is tackling discrimination in football, and that is something we can and should all get behind. So let’s support the players, and unite against racism and all other forms of discrimination.”
Richard Bevan, LMA Chief Executive said:
“The LMA stands united with football’s stakeholders and it is important that the game speaks with one voice to continue to send a loud message that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated. Taking the knee is a powerful display of protest and we fully support any individuals who choose to express their views in such a dignified way.”
Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the FSA, said:
“We stand by players who continue to take the knee and make clear their opposition to racism. Supporting your team means supporting the players and supporting those who choose to take the knee. There’s no place for racism in football or wider society.”
Twitter users reacted as the Millwall boss was criticised for not condemning fans over the incident against Fulham…
The same Millwall fans who did this. https://t.co/JvOvzRtBVe
— Adam Marjanovic (@Adam1Marj) August 18, 2021
@Moley1985: Perhaps the players could hold their middle finger up and aim it at the crowd?
@DoEfc: Millwall. The classiest of all the clubs.
@mattyaztec: Fingers crossed they get relegated
@_the_a_bis: Yes we need to try and find a way not to alienate the racists Gary
@EsJayHH: Deduct points, it’s the only way to combat racism
@_AshWilliams83: Unify people? This action is weeding out the racists. Millwall should be banning their fans that booed.
@Gadey: They’re not kneeling to annoy you, they’re kneeling because of you.
@BC3494: Maybe find a less horrible club to manage Gary
@BernieGarbett: Rowett is right. Taking the knee does NOTHING to stop racism or racist abuse. It is now nothing but an empty gesture.
It is time the FA and the PL actually did something concrete
@ILACommissioner: Shocked at this, Millwall fans being the progressive forward thinking and inclusive bunch that they are.
@WesSmall10: Taking the knee needs to stop.. It now achieves nothing
@KennaNgoma: Racism needs to stop, it achieves nothing* I believe that is what you meant right??
@jemccudden: Well said Jobi.
@ToonMouthTyne: Everything he says is true.
@sean_alldritt: Why should he condemn his own fan base, especially Millwall fans for exercising their freedom of speech? Last time I checked it wasn’t against the law to boo?
@skidstoke: Literally any other gesture doesn’t get booed. Taking the knee is divisive and is quite clearly not helping the situation.
@colecole98: Start by giving players the choice. You’ll find most would choose not to do so. Instructing them to take knee is meaningless
@Paul_Fagan_1983: Amazing how so many people that are definitely not racist in any way get so offended by professional athletes using their platform to call out racism. They don’t even seem to get the irony that they call other proper snow flakes 🙄
@WendyB57: Rowett probably doesn’t agree with taking the knee. Many don’t, I bet some managers and footballers don’t, but they are not allowed to say.
@MrTaylorM: If Millwall fans are booing it sounds like the likes have Fulham have got it spot on. Well done @FulhamFC
@tlksnash: @SkySportsNews I take it you forgot to dub the clapping over the booing like you do in the Premier league
@rainiemfc: Are you going to call out every fanbase this season or continue to dig Millwall out at every opportunity? You got caught out last season, your apologies mean nothing. The club need to ban you from the ground. Absolute joke of a company.
@ahmedIfc: Better way? As if that’ll make a difference to Millwall fans. We all know why they boo the players who take the knee.
@GorseGeek35: Isn’t it more a reflection on Millwall fans that they boo?
@Ross12Jones: What I’ve never understood is the fa have their own anti discrimination campaign in @kickitout. The timing of the BLM campaign was a perfect opportunity to bring it to the forefront but instead gone with Black Lives Matter which has took a negative turn. Just promote @kickitout
@markfromretford: Yeah let’s just pander to the people who get upset by an anti racism protest. 🙄