Sports

Black footballers should refuse to play if scenes at Millwall are repeated

The solution is simple. Don’t play.

Just don’t play. Millwall supporters have the right to voice their warped view that people should not kneel in support that my life as a black man matters. You can police abuse, not opinions.

By the same token, however, black players have the right to withdraw their labour from said fans.

Why should they entertain a group of supporters whose jeering trampled all over the players’ and the clubs’ principles?

Why should they give their all for a set of fans refusing to accept the difference between a political affiliation and an expression of humanity.

There was an audible show of displeasure when Millwall and Derby players took the knee

Gabriel Agbonlahor summed it up superbly with a tweet on Sunday afternoon.

“If I played for Millwall I would have have handed in a transfer request right after the game,” said the ex-Aston Villa striker.

Footballing bodies from the FA to Kick It Out to the EFL have expressed their condemnation and fair enough. You can only use harsh language, however, for so long.

You can only wag your finger at serial offenders like Millwall for so long before you say enough is enough. Then, surely, you have to cut your losses.

Within the club there are employees – good people – who have worked hard to send out positive messages of unity, to build bridges with the local community and to rid the club of an element that all too often has subjected it to the kind of horrendous PR it has had since Saturday.

They are powerless, however, when supporters defend their right to express a toxic opinion at odds with their tightly-knit squad.

Former Premier League striker Gabriel Agbolahor says he would have demanded to leave Millwall

Mirror Sport understands even club chiefs who have defended their own time and again are at a loss as to where they go from here.

The image of the club is in the gutter. Die-hard fans intent on substituting black lives matter for all lives matter were out in force on social media this weekend fortifying their positions. This isn’t going away any time soon.

The players were aware that all hell was going to break loose. The word on the street in that part of south London was that the returning fans were having none of the kneeling that had become a regular fixture around the country since the death of George Floyd earlier this year.

The squad issued a statement on Friday underlining their determination – rightly – to stick to their principles. The resulting scenes in the stands were ugly.

Football is here again because of the mistaken belief that playing through it is the antidote. That playing well is the perfect response to the people whose views you cannot control.

Millwall have released a statement condemning the actions of some fans

In what other industry, however, would employees accept working in such an environment? In these modern times, where else would you see young black men be asked to go out and play in an environment where their right to even exist was being dismissed?

Millwall right now is a microcosm of society. Except staff and players remain disgusted with their fanbase.

Something has to give.




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