A portion of England fans booed their own players taking a knee prior to kickoff of Sunday’s friendly match against Romania. The reaction comes just a day after England manager Gareth Southgate appealed to fans to support the players.
Players with English Premier League clubs and in other parts of the world have been taking a knee prior to matches since last summer, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota. It’s a gesture that is intended to bring awareness to issues of racial inequality, racial injustice and police brutality.
English fans booed the demonstration at Wednesday’s match against Austria in Middlesbrough. And it was a mix of applause and boos from the same Riverside Stadium stands on Sunday:
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After the mid-week match, England’s Jack Grealish acknowledged hearing the fan reaction, saying he “didn’t like it at all. None of the players liked it … It’s a thing we don’t want in football in general and especially in our games.”
“I think I was just happy that the boos got canceled out by the fans cheering in the end, but I don’t think it’s a great situation, especially for us players,” England midfielder Kalvin Phillips said Saturday. “The team spoke about it together and we came up with the conclusion that, regardless of what goes on around, we’re still going to participate in the kneeling and I think that’s a great idea.”
Southgate made it clear at his pregame news conference that the team would continue to take a knee throughout the Euros 2021 tournament, which kicks off on June 11.
“In essence, people are booing their own team. I don’t really understand that,” Southgate told reporters. “Some people decide to boo. I think those people should put themselves in the shoes of those young players and how that must feel.
“We are totally united on it and totally committed to supporting each other and supporting the team. We feel more than ever determined to take the knee through this tournament. We accept there might be an adverse reaction and we’re just going to ignore that and move forward. I think the fact that we’re going to keep going is impactful.”
England national team legend and broadcaster Gary Lineker had a pointed message after witnessing the fan reaction on Sunday:
If you boo @England players for taking the knee, you’re part of the reason why players are taking the knee.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) June 6, 2021