Millwall fans applaud as players unite behind anti-racism banner before QPR match

Millwall fans applaud as players unite behind anti-racism banner before QPR match

Millwall and QPR players holding an anti-racism banner before their game on 8 December 2020
Millwall and QPR players held an anti-racism banner before the game

Millwall fans applauded as their team and QPR players came together to hold an anti-racism banner before Tuesday’s Championship match at The Den, days after booing them for taking a knee.

Players were booed as they took a knee before Saturday’s defeat by Derby.

Millwall’s players did not take a knee before kick-off on Tuesday but QPR’s players did, despite stopping the gesture earlier this season.

Millwall said it was “one of the most important days in the club’s history”.

In a letter handed to fans in attendance, they added: “The eyes of the world are on this football club tonight – your club – and they want us to fail.

“Together as one, we will not let that happen.”

After the 1-1 draw, Millwall manager Gary Rowett told Sky Sports: “I thought it was a very positive stance. I am proud of everybody at the club, because it has been a difficult few days.

“People perhaps turned up and tuned in tonight expecting – and possibly hoping – for a negative evening against Millwall Football Club.

“What we have proved tonight is that I believe the fans are behind our anti-discrimination message.”

QPR’s Ilias Chair celebrating his opening goal by taking a knee and raising a fist in front of the Millwall fans, along with team-mate Bright Osayi-Samuel.

“[We] felt that we needed to do that – especially here,” Chair told Sky Sports. “So I think it was a good thing to do.”

Millwall defender Mahlon Romeo raising a fist then his shirt - sponsored by Kick It Out - before and after his side's game with QPR
Millwall defender Mahlon Romeo raised a fist before the game and after it held aloft his shirt – it featured the Kick It Out logo for the game, in place of the Lions’ regular sponsor

Millwall defender Mahlon Romeo, who said Saturday’s booing had “personally disrespected” and “offended” him, led the team out in front of captain Alex Pearce.

After the match Romeo was applauded off the pitch as he held his shirt aloft. Millwall’s regular shirt sponsor had been replaced with the logo of anti-discrimination body Kick It Out.

“He was sat in a meeting yesterday until six o’clock in the evening,” Rowett added.

“I am proud of him. Not only [for] the way he spoke intelligently in that meeting and passionately, but also his response tonight and the fact that he has contributed hugely, for me, [to] a far more positive message and far more proactive message and far more positive evening – certainly than we had Saturday. I think he should be applauded for that.”

Before the kick-off, players from both clubs stood arm-in-arm behind a banner with the same ‘Inequality. United for change’ message displayed on the big screen at The Den.

The decision to hold up the banner came after a meeting on Monday between both clubs, Kick It Out, Show Racism The Red Card, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Football Association and the English Football League (EFL).

Players, officials and staff at Premier League and EFL games have been taking a knee pre-match since football restarted in June in order to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality.

Analysis

Natalie Pirks, BBC Sport at The Den

The famous Millwall chant goes “no-one likes us, we don’t care”. But Tuesday night was different – there were nerves in the air in this corner of south London.

A taxi driver shouted at our camera crew, telling us we should be focusing on far bigger issues than “a few boos”. Some fans told us their club needed to do more to tackle societal issues of racism.

Those among the 2,000 heading into The Den were handed a statement claiming all eyes of the world were on them. It added, bizarrely, that they “want us to fail”.

It was claimed the statement was written without the backing of the club’s chief executive, but the siege mentality clearly worked.

As the players linked arms and displayed an anti-racism banner, they were loudly clapped and cheered. It continued as some chose to take the knee. The club breathed a sigh of relief.

QPR players taking a knee before their game with Millwall on 8 December 2020, while Millwall players remained stood
QPR players took a knee before kick-off while Millwall players remained standing
Millwall and QPR players holding an anti-racism banner before their game on 8 December 2020
Millwall and QPR players held an anti-racism banner before kick-off, with the same message shown on the video screen

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