• Thursday, June 30, 2022

FOOTBALL

‘Keep taking the knee and annoying racists,’ says Kick It Out chairman Bhandari

Colin Kazim-Richards of Derby County raises his right fist as other players take the knee ahead of the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)

By: Sarwar Alam

The attempt by Millwall Football Club fans to portray their booing at players taking the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as “political disagreement” has been described as “complete and utter nonsense” by Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari.

The Football Association on Monday said it is investigating crowd-related incidents at Millwall and Colchester United, where fans also booed players taking a knee.

Millwall Football Club said it was “dismayed and saddened” by the actions of some of their fans, who they admitted “held extreme views” and that they were “not welcome at this football”.

Former England captain and Derby manager Wayne Rooney, who were Milwall’s opponents, described the booing as “disgraceful and mindless behaviour”.

Anti-racism campaigner, Bhandari said: “I am saddened but not shocked. I knew this would happen at some point but am saddened it has happened on the first weekend with fans back in stadia.

Sanjay Bhandari.

“Racists rarely admit they are racists – they try to hide their backlash under a seemingly respectable cloak.

“The cloak this time is that the gestures are really in support of some political movements associated with the Black Lives Matter slogan and this is mischievously portrayed as a political disagreement. This is complete and utter nonsense.

“Generally, the only people who oppose anti-racist gestures are racists. If Taking A Knee offends them, good. We want them to be offended.”

Kick It Out will meet with deputy chief constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead “to discuss this issue and potential action”.

Players in England have been taking a knee before matches since June in support of the BLM movement, which spread around the world following protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

The Premier League and Football League have since linked the kneeling gesture to their own anti-racism campaigns, including “No Room for Racism”.

Bhandari has urged players to continue to the take the knee.

“Taking a Knee is a gesture that has been driven by the players and supported by the clubs and leagues. Players do it to highlight the fight for racial equality. It is explicitly not an endorsement of any specific political movement.

“I urge the players to continue to defy the hate and to defy the racists. Keep Taking A Knee. Keep protesting. Keep annoying racists. If you need to walk off the pitch, walk off the pitch.”

Millwall Football Club said their players will link arms with opponents Queens Park Rangers at their home game on Tuesday “in a show of solidarity for football’s fight against discrimination”.

The club also said the the Kick It Out logo will replace their main kit sponsor Huski Chocolate for the match and that an anti-racism banner will be held aloft by the two teams.

“I know that there are many good people at Millwall both in the boardroom and on the terraces who are deeply upset. We will continue to work with them,” said Bhandari.

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