‘We must not accept actions of mindless few’ – Wayne Rooney on Millwall booing

Wayne Rooney says football must not tolerate the "disgraceful and mindless behaviour" of fans booing anti-racism demonstrations.

Supporters were back at Millwall on Saturday for the first time since February 29, with London placed in tier two of the current system of coronavirus restrictions, but it was the actions of some spectators which took centre stage ahead of the 3pm kick-off against the Rams.

Some of the 2,000 home crowd booed when players from both sides took a knee ahead of kick-off and, in a statement on Twitter, interim Rams manager Rooney said: "Yesterday I witnessed disgraceful and mindless behaviour by a large section of the Millwall supporters in the stadium.

"We were aware of the possibility of a disruptive response during the taking of the knee in support of (Black Lives Matter) but nothing prepared us for what we heard.

"It is really important that the vast majority of us show respect and support of each other and do not tolerate or accept the actions of the mindless few."

Colchester fans also booed when players took the knee ahead of their game against Grimsby later on Saturday.

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Millwall fans return to The Den
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LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Fans watch at the Millwall players warm up during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Fans watch as Murray Wallace of Millwall takes a throw in during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Ryan Woods of Millwall kneeling for black lives matter during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Ryan Leonard of Millwall kneeling for black lives matter during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Colin Kazim-Richards of Derby County taking on Ryan Woods of Millwall and Ben Thompson of Millwall during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Shaun Williams of Millwall and Jed Wallace of Millwall clapping the fans during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Millwall fans sitting in the stands before the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Mahlon Romeo of Millwall battling for possession with Kamil Jozwiak of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Gary Rowett manager of Millwall talking to Wayne Rooney Interim Manager of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den on December 05, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)
Millwall's Ben Thompson (centre left) and Derby County's Kamil Jozwiak in action during the Sky Bet Championship match at The Den, London. (Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)
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Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted players should be free to express their views as they wish and be respected.

Eustice, when shown the Millwall clip during an interview on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, told Sky News: "There has been problems obviously with racism in football in the past. It is right that that is called out and challenged when we see it.

"It doesn't have any place in society today and if people choose to express their view in a particular way, that should always be respected.

"My personal view is that Black Lives Matter – capital B, L and M – is actually a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.

"Each individual can take their own choices about how they reflect this and I know a number of people feel quite strongly and have taken that approach."

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Everton's Wayne Rooney has a drink as his manager David Moyes (l) gives him instructions
Everton's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the equalising goal.
Arsenal's Thierry Henry congratulates Everton's Wayne Rooney at the end of the game after Rooney scored the winning goal
Everton's Wayne Rooney gets into a pushing match with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.
England's Francis Jeffers (centre right) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring against Australia during the friendly International match against Australia at Upton Park, east London. Australia defeated England 3-1. THIS PICTURE CAN ONLY BE USED WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF AN EDITORIAL FEATURE. NO WEBSITE/INTERNET USE UNLESS SITE IS REGISTERED WITH FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION PREMIER LEAGUE.
England's Wayne Rooney and Turkey's Buruk Okan battle for the ball
l-r; England's Michael Owen celebrates scoring the opening goal with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney
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Manchester United's new signing Wayne Rooney (r) and manager Sir Alex Ferguson pose with his shirt
Manchester United's new signing Wayne Rooney (l) with his girlfriend Coleen McCloughlin
l-r; Manchester United's captain Roy Keane congratulates opening goal scorer Wayne Rooney.
England captain David Beckham (R) attempts to console Wayne Rooney after he is shown the yellow card.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney with the PFA Young Player of the Year Award he received at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.
Britain's Prince William speaks to injured England striker Wayne Rooney (right) during a visit to the England World Cup squad training camp at the Carrington Training Ground, Manchester.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney as Celtic fans hold aloft scalfs
Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin during their visit to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool, where they opened a new unit for children with brain illnesses.
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the third goal with teammate Wayne Rooney (l)
manchester United's Wayne Rooney and goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate a late winner ar Craven Cottage
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Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin at the Gary Neville and Emma Hadfield wedding, Manchester Cathedral, Manchester.
Manchester United players (l-r) Michael Carrick, John O'Shea, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney during a training at the Stade Gerland in Lyon, France.
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Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (centre) joins David Beckham (left) and Wayne Rooney to launch England's 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids at Wembley Stadium, London.
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Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney arrives at Manchester Civil Court, where he will give evidence in court later today as he fights a 4.3 million lawsuit.
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England's Wayne Rooney (left) walks past manager Fabio Capello (right) dejected as he is substituted
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the winning goal during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow.
England's Wayne Rooney with his wife Coleen and son Kai, leave the team hotel in Krakow, Poland.
England's Wayne Rooney and Ukraine's Denys Garmash battle for the ball
A heavily pregnant Coleen Rooney (centre) with husband Wayne Rooney and their son Kai, on the pitch to celebrate Manchester United winning the Barclays Premier League, after the game
England's Harry Kane (left) celebrates scoring his sides first goal of the game with team-mate Wayne Rooney during the UEFA European Qualifying match at Wembley Stadium, London.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney holding the Emirates FA Cup trophy
(From left to right) Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, massuer Rod Thornley and manager Jose Mourinho pose for a picture during the training session at the Aon Training Complex, Carrington.
Everton's Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal of the game
England's Wayne Rooney during a guard of honour
Nov 1, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) stands on the field before the game against the Columbus Crew at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA
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It has been clarified to the PA news agency that Eustice meant players should be able to express their views in the fight against racism and was not suggesting fans who booed the teams taking a knee should be respected.

Nevertheless, Derby first-team coach Liam Rosenior criticised Eustice's response.

Rosenior told BBC Radio 5 Live: "What hurt even more than the booing is the response of George Eustice this morning.

"Being a cabinet minister and conflating a positive, unifying message as a message of activism, and politicising something that every single person on this planet should be supporting.

"It's not a political message, let's make this absolutely clear. This is a message about unifying our country. When top political figures are creating division, how difficult is it at ground level?"

A Millwall statement on Sunday morning read: "Millwall Football Club was dismayed and saddened by events which marred Saturday's game against Derby County.

"The club has worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare for the return of supporters and what should have been a positive and exciting occasion was completely overshadowed, much to the immense disappointment and upset of those who have contributed to those efforts.

"The club will not allow their fine work to be in vain. The players are continuing to use the biggest platform they have to support the drive for change, not just in football but in society generally."

A Colchester statement read: "Colchester United are fully behind any and all of our players and staff who take a stand against any form of discrimination.

"We also condemn the behaviours of any supporters that actively voice opposition to those activities."

Callum Harriott, who scored the Us' winner, labelled the booing "ridiculous" on Twitter.

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari admitted he was "saddened" by the behaviour of fans at Millwall.

In a statement to PA, he said: "We urge the players to continue using their platforms and their voices to support this fight.

"We applaud the players of Millwall and Derby for taking a stand and defying the hate shown by some fans today."

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