Millwall manager Gary Rowett was left fielding questions about his players ‘taking the knee’ – after some supporters booed the move.
The Championship side were allowed 2,000 fans back in the stadium following the easing of restrictions in the middle of the week.
But both Kick It Out and the FA released statements this afternoon condeming the reaction to the pre-match gesture.
Rowett said: “I’m sat here as a manager disappointed that we’re not talking about the game today.
“The club have done so many positive things in the community – anti-discrimination. They have done so many brilliant initiatives and it’s a club that works incredibly hard to enact change and do something about the situations we all feel we need to be more pro-active on.
“We’re all disappointed that we’re having to come in and talk about it.
“The players have released a statement together. It’s a mixture – is it a political message, is it about anti-discrimination and equality? I think we all 100 per cent support that. The players have spoken about it and said they don’t support it as a political message. They support anti-discrimination and that’s why they’ve done it.
“Moving forward, like a lot of clubs have done, they’d prefer not to take the knee and enact change – do something positively about it. Be proactive about it rather than something which is a gesture and that a lot of clubs are saying now is perhaps empty. That’s not my consideration, but they feel that gesture has been empty and not doing something about it.”
Derby interim manager Wayne Rooney said: “Obviously I heard it and I was very surprised.
“It’s a sad thing to happen. All I can say is everyone at Derby County Football Club has fully backed taking a knee. We’ll continue to do so.
“It’s a shame. There has been great progress in that campaign. To hear that is very disappointing and upsetting.
“I’m pleased with how my team dealt with that, because they put it to the back of their mind for the 90 minutes but it’s something that needs looking at and addressing.”
Kick It Out issued their own statement. It said: “We are saddened by the behaviour of fans booing the players taking the knee today at Millwall.
“What this demonstrates is that players are right to continue standing up to discrimination, whether that is through take the knee or speaking out.
“The fight for racial equality continues and we will continue to work closely with clubs across the country to tackle discrimination in all its forms.
“We applaud the players for taking a stand and defying the hate shown today.”
An FA statement said: “The FA supports all players and staff that 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.”
Millwall’s players had issued a joint statement before the Championship match.
It said: “As a squad we are fully supportive of the entire football family’s efforts in ridding the sport, and society generally, of all forms of discrimination.
“It is our duty as players to reinforce the positive messaging and action of clubs, community trusts, charities and governing bodies, and we do so with great pride and knowledge that so much good work is being done up and down the country.
“The gesture of ‘taking the knee’ before matches provides an opportunity for us to do exactly that and continues to allow all those playing to publicly showcase their support – on behalf of the whole squad – for the fight against discrimination.
“We wish to make clear that taking the knee, for us, is in no way representative of any agreement with political messaging or ideology. It is purely about tackling discrimination, as has been the case throughout.
“We will continue to do this until the start of the New Year when a new and comprehensive anti-discrimination strategy will be announced by the club.”
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