This week marks the first time fans have been allowed back in English football stadiums since Covid-19 struck Europe back in March. Arsenal was the first Premier League club to welcome fans back, with 2,000 supporters neatly spaced out for a Europa League match on Thursday in what proved to be a celebratory atmosphere.
By Saturday, some English fans were proving unworthy of the privilege of watching the beautiful game in person.
Since soccer returned in the summer from the Covid shutdowns of the spring, footballers around the globe have been taking a knee before kickoff to make a united show against racism. It’s really the least players can do to remind viewers that racism is still rampant in our society, whether you’re in London or Dallas.
Usually racism is something we can all agree is bad. Unfortunately racists, whether consciously or unconsciously, will always find a problem with anti-racist messages.
Such was the case Saturday when Millwall hosted Derby County in an EFL Championship match.
As Millwall and Derby County players took a knee before kickoff (except Colin Kazim-Richards, who instead raised his fist), a large portion of the 2,000 fans vehemently booed the anti-racist message.
It takes a special kind of asshole to boo athletes trying to make a statement against racism. These Millwall fans certainly fall into that category.
England is no stranger to racism. The last few years have seen countless episodes of fans racially abusing Black players. Really, this isn’t much of a surprise. It just reminds us that footballers need to keep making such statements to bring awareness to how widespread racism is around the world.
To make matters worse, Millwall players released a statement condemning all forms of discrimination on Friday, and the club celebrated LGBTQ+ rights on Saturday.
#Millwall players have issued the following statement...— Millwall FC (@MillwallFC) December 4, 2020
— Millwall FC (@MillwallFC) December 5, 2020
“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,” the player statement read. “The gesture of taking the knee before matches provides an opportunity for us to do exactly that and continues to allow all those playing to publicly showcase their support — on behalf of the whole squad — for the fight against discrimination.
“We wish to make clear that taking the knee, for us, is in no way representative of any agreement with political messaging or ideology. It is purely about tackling discrimination, as has been the case throughout. We will continue to do this until the start of the New Year when a new and comprehensive anti-discrimination strategy will be announced by the club.”
Clearly the fans didn’t get the message.
The FA released a statement on Saturday condemning the actions of these pathetic racists.
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. pic.twitter.com/S4ODbnZyMt— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) December 5, 2020
While some say taking a knee to say “Black Lives Matter” is a political statement, let me remind you that we’re talking about human rights here, which are apolitical. If you can’t agree that Black Lives Matter, then you shouldn’t be allowed to watch the beautiful game. Period. Anyone who disagrees can fuck off and stay out of our sport.