Wayne Rooney criticised a number of Millwall fans for their "disgraceful and mindless behaviour" before kick-off on Saturday against Derby County, when members of the crowd booed their own players while taking the knee.
Despite seeing his first victory as interim manager of Derby, the 35-year-old expressed his disdain with the section of Lions supporters in an interview with TalkSPORT after the match.
He later posted to social media on Sunday saying that they were aware of the possibility before the match "of a planned disruptive response during the taking of the knee in support of the BLM campaign, but nothing prepared us for what we heard".
"I was proud of my players and staff for not letting the fans deter them from continuing to present a positive and important message that taking the knee immediately before the game sends".
He congratulated the "professionalism of the players on both sides throughout the game" as a "credit to our profession" after the incident.
"On behalf of Derby County Football Club I want to be clear to everyone associated with the club that we represent all sectors of the community regardless of colour, gender or sexuality," Rooney said.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) December 6, 2020
After the team's loss, Millwall star Mahlon Romeo said he was "almost lost for words" after some of the club's supporters chose to boo players who had decided to take the knee.
The defender told South London Press that the game was now "irrelevant" to him after their actions.
"The fans have been let back in - which the whole team was looking forward to. But in society there is a problem - and that problem is racism," he said.
"The fans who have been let in today have personally disrespected not just me but the football club. And what the football club and the community stand for."
He called taking the knee, which began as an act of support of the BLM movement against racism and police violence, as a "peaceful gesture" which the fans condemned.
"I'm speaking on behalf of myself here - not any of the other players - I want to make that very clear. This is the first time I feel disrespected.
"Because you have booed and condemned a peaceful gesture which - and it needs repeating - was put in place to highlight, combat and tackle any discriminatory behaviour and racism in general" , Romeo added.
Millwall released a statement on Sunday morning about their supporters' behaviour, and said they would meet with officials from the anti-racism campaign 'Kick It Out' in coming days "to use Saturday’s events as a catalyst for more rapid solutions".
Clashes Over Millwall Booing Incident
However, others have been slower to find fault with the fans, accusing the symbol of being a political gesture and not explicitly anti-racist.
In an interview with Sky News, the UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said that although racism in football should be "called out and challenged", BLM is a "political movement that is different to what most of us believe in".
"If people choose to express their view in a particular way, that should always be respected", he added.
'My personal view is that Black Lives Matter is a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.'— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) December 6, 2020
George Eustice reacts to footage of Millwall fans booing footballer's for taking a knee.https://t.co/7d85kNDhUM pic.twitter.com/cOVJjki8i0
Labour activist and trade unionist Paul Embery also supported the fans saying they did not boo because they were racist but "because what began as a single act of solidarity has, as usual, turned into a protracted moral lecture".
Millwall fans didn’t boo because they are racist. They have taken many black players to their hearts over the years. They booed because what began as a single act of solidarity has, as usual, turned into a protracted moral lecture. That is what irritates people.— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) December 5, 2020
Conservative journalist and ReasonedUK founded Darren Grimes complained that BLM was "now a political party and one with aims to overthrow the state, defund the police and to divide us as much as possible".
Crowds at Millwall boo players taking the knee. I’m not sure why clubs are still doing this? BLM, outside of the laudable slogan, is now a political party and one with aims to overthrow the state, defund the police and to divide us as much as possible! pic.twitter.com/WziolE7g81— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) December 5, 2020
The incident at The Den occurred just after a statement was released by Millwall, highlighting their intention to keep taking the knee before matches until "a new and comprehensive anti-discrimination strategy" is unveiled in the New Year.