Millwall players will not ‘take the knee’ for their Championship fixture with Queens Park Rangers tonight – instead the players will stand arm-in-arm to show of “solidarity for football’s fight against discrimination.”
This comes after sections of the 2,000 supporters at The Den could be heard booing their players taking the knee at the first game attended by fans against Derby County on Saturday.
Millwall and their opponents QPR – who decided against taking the knee back in September – came to a joint decision last night ahead of what might become an emotive occasion. QPR’s Les Ferdinand, the only black director of football in the English Football League, had previously said the gesture had become “diluted” and “little more than good PR”.
Message to unify the fans
Millwall announced that following discussions with charities Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card, and the PFA, the FA and the EFL, the teams will also hold an anti-racism banner aloft before kick-off. Kick It Out’s logo will be on the front of their shirts in the position of their normal match-day sponsor.
The South London club hope to repeat this gesture with visiting teams in the coming weeks and months, hoping it can unify their fan base to combat all forms of discrimination.
Sanjay Bhandari, chair of the anti-racism charity Kick It Out, said: “What they’ve come up with is something they believe will create unity at their club and is a message that everyone can get behind.”
“I disagree with some objections to take a knee, and I disagree with the conflation with other political movements that people are mischievously making. But I have to accept that some people disagree with that, and if this is something which creates unity, then we should be supporting it.”
Taking the knee still an option
The possibility remains that players from either side may still opt to take the knee, and Millwall have “firmly” asked fans to respect players who do.
The Millwall Supporters Club also released a statement which said that the booing was not racist, but rather a “reaction to the war memorials and statues of Churchill defaced by the BLM organisation and the extreme political views they hold, and for which ‘taking the knee’ is associated with.”
But they called on supporters to read the views of player Mahlon Romeo before they decide whether to boo any players who do decide to take the knee. After Saturday’s game, Romeo gave an impassioned post-match interview where he said players chose to take the knee to convey an anti-discrimination message, not as a political endorsement of Black Lives Matter.
The plans mark a 24-hour turnaround. An initial statement from QPR boss Mark Warburton told BBC Sport: “In light of certain events, we will stand solidly behind the cause and our players will take the knee… It’s the right thing to do.”
Millwall have also reiterated that if anybody is found guilty of racist abuse, they will be banned from the stadium for life.