BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Gary Rowett has rubbished claims that Millwall told their players not to ‘take a knee’ in Tuesday’s derby against QPR.
Both sides held up a banner which had the message ‘united in change’ and asked for equality as part of a pre-match gesture.
Lions defender Mahlon Romeo was hugely critical of some of the club’s supporters who booed the ‘taking of the knee’ in Saturday’s Den fixture – a 1-0 loss to Derby.
Millwall changed their approach in midweek and issued a statement making clear they wanted it to help “root out all forms of discrimination”.
Sky Sports reported that the Lions players would still ‘take the knee’ in the build-up to the QPR game. But it was only the visitors who opted to do so.
It then led to rumours that Rowett’s squad had been told not to perform the act.
That has been robustly rejected by the Millwall manager. He said: “It’s actually quite insulting if people think that is what we’d do.
“There were a lot of stories in the build-up to the game, and there were a lot of stories that simply weren’t true.
“I personally sat down with four or five of the senior players – including Mahlon – and all we said was that we wanted to try and actually turn this around into something more positive that we can actually get behind and get a little bit of change.
“I spoke to some of the players about some of the ideas and they were completely behind that.
“At no point in any of those discussions with anybody would we have tried to influence peoples’ decision-making.
“It was up to any of the players how they chose to react when the whistle was blown. If they wanted to take the knee then they could take the knee.
“We’ve tried to do a lot of work and there has been a lot of stuff out there that, in my opinion, wasn’t helpful and wasn’t true. You can make your assumptions, based on that, as to why the stories were out there.
“It was poor. There was even a little bit at the end on Sky that it isn’t up to Steve Kavanagh or Gary Rowett to decide – well none of us have decided. You can’t assume that has happened – that would certainly never happen.
“It was down to the players. Just like it was down to QPR’s players. I think that’s been the consistent message all the way along.”
Romeo led the Lions out in midweek – and they had Kick It Out as their shirt sponsor for the night.
Rowett said: “Mahlon had been part of the meeting on Monday and had been there until six o’clock, so my only concern with him was how he would be in the game. The last couple of days have been clouded in a lot of things away from the football, rightly so.
“It was never a concern to start him. It was never indicated by Mahlon not to start him.
“The team was picked like it always has been and always will be – it was picked on merit.
“I’m sure there would’ve been a huge emotional toll on Mahlon. You could see that at the end of the game.
“There is no way I wouldn’t consider the right players and right team for any game.”
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