The Football Association and the English Football League have slammed Millwall supporters for booing players for taking the knee against Derby County on Saturday afternoon, and have offered their full support to those who wish to fight discrimination 'in a respectful manner'.
Saturday's meeting was the first time that fans were allowed back in the New Den and some supporters booed and jeer prior to kickoff as the players took a knee in the battle against discrimination, following the unlawful murder of American citizen George Floyd.
Their reaction has received widespread condemnation across the Football League, and the FA and EFL were quick to speak out against the actions taken by the Millwall supporters. A statement from the FA confirmed it 'strongly condemns' the fans' behaviour and will continue to 'support all players and staff' who take the knee.
"The FA supports all players and staff who 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."
There had been concerns ahead of the fans' return to the stadium that they may stage a protest against the sign of solidarity, due to its links to the Black Lives Matter movement and potential politicisation.
"The club has worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare for the return of supporters and what should have been a positive and exciting occasion was completely overshadowed, much to the immense disappointment and upset of those who have contributed to those efforts."
Saturday's unsavoury scenes have proven those fears to be justified. The EFL also responded to this behaviour, expressing that they are 'disappointed that a small group of supporters' have used the return to stadiums to 'voice their opposition' in the fight against discrimination.
“We are disappointed that a small group of supporters have today chosen to voice their opposition to such activities directly aimed at raising awareness of the fight against racism.
“We remain committed to working with our clubs, including Millwall, who undertake a significant amount of work on equality and inclusion initiatives, as we continue with our collective objective to eradicate all types of prejudiced behaviour.”
Speaking after the match, Millwall boss Gary Rowett explained that although the players don't agree with the 'political aspect' of the situation, they 'do support the anti-discrimination' side, while stressing that the Lions do a lot of anti-racism work in the community.
He said: “The players have come out and said they don’t support the political aspect, but they do support the anti-discrimination aspect of it...the club does an enormous amount of work on anti-racism.”
Interim Derby coach Wayne Rooney described the incident as 'very surprising,' and confirmed that 'no one at Derby condones that behaviour.'
”With everything that has been going on in recent months, it was very surprising. I don’t want to say much about it, but all I can say is that everyone at Derby took the knee, and no one condones that behaviour.”