Millwall bow to pressure to ditch knee – but you haven’t heard the last of it
Don’t kid yourself that Millwall’s success in persuading its players to ditch the knee has been met with universal approval from within.
Or that you have heard of the last of it. The team will link arms with QPR’s stars ahead of their Championship fixture tonight. But some of the visiting team still intend to kneel – booing or no booing.
Some of Millwall’s players still have reservations too. They stayed largely silent during a video call to discuss the issue which turned into a battleground lasting around an hour and a half on Monday afternoon. But they still feel strongly.
Tempers raged at the meeting with EFL representatives – including chairman Rick Parry – receiving both barrels for hiding over the issue of the knee while clubs bear the brunt of the criticism.
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And yet the EFL will get away from this entire controversy lightly with the focus very much on Millwall.
Some of the club’s players, still smarting from Saturday, feel the Lions have given in to the toxic section of their fanbase.
That club chiefs have gone from being principled on Friday – when they backed a pre-match statement insisting the knee would be taken until the New Year when an alternative would be found – to pitiful in the face of the firestorm since the shameful scenes at the weekend.
Other players fear the club has buckled under the threat of more disorder, more negative headlines and the threat of lost income.
They are right. Millwall has gone from total support for it’s stars to waving the white flag in order to prevent meltdown at the New Den on Tuesday night.
The club has checked out the message boards and the forums on which angry fans have signaled their intention to carry on booing – and panicked.
No longer can Millwall claim zero tolerance and complete solidarity with it’s players on the issue of racism. Nor can it expect to move on happily ever after following tonight’s game.
The wounds from the past 72 hours are running deep. Players and staff previously committed to the club remain unhappy that it blinked first in the face of unrepentant fans dismissive of the truism that black lives matter.
Whatever Millwall say from here on, they will be remembered as the club that buckled under the rejection of that message.
It may well pat itself on the back at it’s idea for the players to hold a banner ahead of tonight’s game. But that gesture is the club’s idea, not the players’.
The U-turn is a microcosm of the trouble with football. Standing firm on racism is all very well until it looks as though it is going to affect revenue or any given club’s image. Which is precisely why players kneel.
Millwall surrender comes in stark contrast to Colchester chairman and owner Robbie Cowling who responded to fans booing the knee last Saturday by telling them he’d refund their season ticket money rather than see them again.
It really isn’t that difficult to show leadership in the face of adversity.
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