Cabinet minister responds after footballers take a knee

Environment Secretary George Eustice said people should be free to express their views as they please and be respected after Millwall and Colchester fans booed players who took a knee on Saturday.

The return of fans on Saturday was overshadowed by players from Millwall and Colchester being booed as they grabbed a knee.

Supporters were back at The Den for the first time since February 29 after London was placed in the second tier of the current coronavirus restriction system, but an incident leading up to the 3pm kick-off against Derby took center stage.

Some of the 2,000 Millwall fans lashed out when players from both sides grabbed a knee for the Sky Bet Championship match.

It was a similar story later in the day when Colchester hosted Grimsby in front of nearly 1,000 spectators at the JobServe Community Stadium.

Ahead of kickoff, when both players from the League Two clubs decided to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, a small portion of the audience heard cheering.

Environment Secretary George Eustice was asked to comment on the events on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

He said, “My personal opinion is that black lives matter, capital B, L and M, is actually a political movement that is different from what most of us believe in, which is to champion racial equality.”

He added, “Each individual can make their own choices about how they reflect this and I know that a number of people feel quite empowered and have taken that approach.”

He was told an excerpt from the Millwall game, but said it was difficult to hear because he was “in the middle of a street” with buses passing by.

He added: “There have clearly been problems with racism in football in the past, it is good that that is being called up and challenged when we see it.

“It has no place in society today.

“When people choose to express their opinion in a certain way, it must always be respected.”

Millwall says they are appalled and saddened by the events at The Den on Saturday, where some of the 2,000 home fans were booed in the ground as home and Derby players took a knee before kickoff.

In a lengthy statement, the Sky Bet Championship club insists that they will use this moment as a catalyst for faster solutions in the fight against discrimination.

It said: “Millwall Football Club was appalled and saddened by events that marred Saturday’s game against Derby County at The Den.

“The club has worked tirelessly over the past few months to prepare for the return of supporters and what should have been a positive and exciting event has been completely overshadowed, much to the disappointment and upset of those who contributed to those efforts.

“The impact of such incidents is felt not only by the players and management, but also by those who work across the club and in the academy and the trust of the community, where so many staff and volunteers continue to make passionate efforts to build the reputation. of Millwall day after day, year after year. after year. “

Millwall’s statement continued: “The club will not allow their good work to be in vain.

“The players will continue to use the largest platform they have to support the drive for change, not just in football but in society in general.

“There is a lot of work to be done and at Millwall everyone is committed to doing everything possible, both individually and collectively, to be a force for the good and ensure that the club remains at the forefront of the anti Discrimination Efforts of Football.

“In the coming days, club, academy and community trust officials will meet with Kick It Out and representatives from other relevant agencies in an effort to use Saturday’s events as a catalyst for faster solutions that have both short and long-term impact. term.

“Further comments will be made once those meetings and discussions are completed.”

On Saturday, the EFL gave its continued support to clubs and players looking to get the hang of it.

A statement said, “The EFL continues to support every individual player, players and clubs who choose to ‘master’ to tackle inequality in society.

“We are disappointed that a small group of supporters have chosen today to express their opposition to such activities that are directly aimed at raising awareness of the fight against racism.

“Discrimination in any form is not welcome and we remain committed to partnering with our clubs, including Millwall which is doing a lot of work on equality and inclusion initiatives, while continuing our collective goal of eliminating all types of biased behavior. and the EFL is an inclusive and diverse environment for everyone. “