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06th Dec 2020

Cabinet minister fails to condemn Millwall fans for booing anti-racist gesture

Environment secretary George Eustice failed to condemn Millwall fans who booed their own players for taking a knee before their loss to Derby County

Reuben Pinder

‘iT’s A pOlItIcAl MoVeMeNt’

A government cabinet minister failed to condemn the actions of Millwall fans who booed their own players for taking the knee before their match against Derby County on Saturday.

The hostile response to an anti-racist gesture has been widely condemned by the footballing world, with statements from Kick It Out, Wayne Rooney and the FA all condemning the booing of a peaceful protest against racism.

But environment secretary George Eustice could not bring himself to do the same, saying Black Lives Matter was a “political movement.”

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday morning, Eustice said he hadn’t seen the incident and that “the issue of race and racial discrimination is something that we all take very very seriously.”

He added: “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.”

Eustice was then shown a clip of the incident, but claimed he couldn’t hear it.

“There have been problems obviously with racism in football in the past. It’s right that that’s called out and challenged when we see it … If people choose to express their view in a particular way that should always be respected.”

Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out and Hope Not Hate have both criticised Eustice’s lack of condemnation for the actions of Millwall fans.

Hope not hate tweeted: “Booing antiracism is not a respectable position. Footballers have made a powerful statement that Black lives matter. Government ministers should support that, not undermine it.

“Saying that Black lives matter shouldn’t be controversial and the fact that it is to some says much about the scale of racism in Britain today. Footballers have shown leadership on this issue. Government ministers should try doing that too.”