Written by Dylan Charles
University of Leicester students condemned Millwall fans after they booed their players before the match against Derby County on December 5, as they took the knee in a gesture against racism.
Student and President of the university’s Men’s Football Club, Keegan Stewart, said:
“I don’t think the fans were right to boo the players. The players have been continuously supporting the efforts of those creating anti-racism campaigns, and taking the knee was in solidarity with that – saying no to racism.
“If you’re booing those making efforts to ensure an equal society and sport, then I think something is quite wrong.”
Asked if the FA, the governing body of the sport, was doing enough to stamp out racism, Stewart said:
“Clubs, the governing bodies, and fans, all need to accept that it’s in our game and find ways to deal with it.
“Too many times we see international games staged in Eastern Europe, where the fans think it’s appropriate to make ‘racist gestures.’ Harsher penalties, complete expulsion if necessary, is the only way to deal with it.”
One first-year student added to this by saying the treatment of Mahlon Romeo, Millwall’s only black player, made him feel “sick.” He felt that the fans were insensitive to his feelings and they were sending out a message that colour is a barrier to loyalty.
In a powerful statement, the student went on to say that being black shouldn’t be seen as a crime and urged everyone to stand united against racism. He warned that racism is a pandemic and like the Coronavirus would only get worse if left untreated.
John Williams, an Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, who has published several books on Liverpool FC, said: “The phrase: ‘Black Lives Matter’ is confused in the minds of many, mainly white, people with the wider politics of the BLM movement.
“Many Millwall fans enjoy their pariah status – ‘No-one likes us, we don’t care’ – so this ‘protest’ at Millwall was probably satisfying in that sense too.”
He added: “Maybe taking the knee is losing some of its impact. We need real changes in the game more than symbolic gestures.”
Les Ferdinand, the only black Director of Football who works for QPR, in an interview with BBC Sports chief football writer Phil McNulty said: “Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will. […] The gesture has reached a point of ‘good PR’ but little more than that.”
Leicester students though, argue that taking the knee remains a powerful symbol in the fight to stamp out racism in football, even if it is political.
Dylan Charles is a first year Journalism and Creative Writing student from Northampton. Having spent much of his education abroad, he would like to carve out a career in Sports Journalism that allows him the opportunity to travel extensively, mixing and engaging with different cultures and communities.