Football manager blasted for wanting ‘better way to unify people’ than kneeling after booing is heard again before game in England

Football manager blasted for wanting ‘better way to unify people’ than kneeling after booing is heard again before game in England

A football manager has been told that he should have condemned fans who again booed players when they knelt for Black Lives Matter, earning criticism over his remarks that the gesture is causing "such a rift and divide".

Former Premier League player Gary Rowett voiced his concerns over the taking of the knee after fans audibly disowned the gesture again at Championship club Millwall's home stadium, which had been the setting for similar scenes before a game last December.

While the visiting Fulham players knelt shortly before kick-off, their opponents chose to stand as the jeers rang out, with some raising a fist in the air.

"We need the authorities to help clubs out and find a better way to unify people," argued experienced coach Rowett afterwards, addressing the debate that has raged in England and many other countries around the value of the symbolism.

"I don’t want to comment on individual people’s decision to do that but we just need to find a way to unify people. At the moment, you know, 20 seconds, 30 seconds before a game [it] is just causing such a rift and divide.

"We need help to find a more positive way of taking some form of action. That’s my opinion.”

That viewpoint was not well received by another former top-flight star, Jobi McAnuff, who was on punditry duties for UK broadcaster Sky Sports.

"I don’t think we can be any clearer in terms of the message behind taking the knee and what it stands for," McAnuff told viewers, expressing his disappointment at the booing and Rowett's response.

"What it represents is the fight against racism and discrimination. When somebody decides to make a racist tweet or shout racist abuse, that’s a decision.

"These fans at this club are making a decision to boo players taking the knee. For me, there’s no other explanation any more other than that they’re opposing equality.

"You’re a manager of a club: you might say you can’t control what a fan does but what you can do as the figurehead is condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I’m disappointed I haven’t seen it.

“I’m tired of having to come out and get my point across on something that we’ve been so clear about. [We've] on multiple occasions unequivocally said why players take the knee.”

Former England defender Danny Mills was unimpressed with the saga. "We've heard a million times that this is not a political statement. This is about anti-discrimination and anti-racism," he said, calling for those who booed to be "singled out" and banned from attending matches.

"Players have come out time and time again and said that this is nothing to do with politics – this is purely about anti-racism. If you actively make a choice and boo an anti-racist statement, which it is, in my view, that makes you racist.

"You can't be in the middle of this. You're either racist or not. It's as simple as that."

England's international male and football teams have strongly backed the taking of the knee, with Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate speaking out to support the move.

There was fury after fans booed kneeling players when Millwall hosted Derby at the end of 2020, including outrage from players on both teams and warnings that any repeat of the incident could result in sanctions.

Former Leicester, Birmingham and Everton defender Rowett had overseen a 2-1 defeat for his side in the London derby.

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(L) © Reuters / Action Images/Paul Childs; (R) © Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
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