There seemed little likelihood that they would put up with this new performative gesture going on not just once, but months and months after the event that kicked it off. Football grounds, even after decades of gentrification and rising ticket prices, are not always genteel places. They are places where strong views are held about peoples’ failings, real or otherwise, with crowds who do not always keep their opinions to themselves.
And so, as the months dragged on and the strange new ritual seemed impossible to shrug off, the day was always going to come when the clubs reacquainted themselves with their supporters. Sure enough, on Saturday that happened, and the inevitable, predictable thing took place, at the home of one of the less genteel of football clubs: Millwall. At the start of the match between the south London side and visitors Derby County, both teams went down on one knee as is now their custom — and as they did so, many of the supporters began audibly to boo.
So, yes — for those of you unacquainted with the world of English soccer, games have been going on since the leagues restarted over the summer, in empty stadiums. Throughout that time, it has become a new ritual for the players to take a knee for a moment in solidarity with BLM after the opening whistle. Only just this past weekend, tiny numbers of fans were allowed back in certain grounds. As the man said, the Millwall supporters made their feelings known about this new ritual of virtue-signaling. The feculent, inbred world of football journalism, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, was united in its horrified denunciation of these savages who dare to show such impiety toward the new state religion. It was suggested somewhere that CCTV might even be used to identify the “offenders,” who are apparently deserving of punishment under new anti-blasphemy laws. I smirked and thought, “Good for them.”
Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of characters among the booing ruffians whom I would find loathsome (the same rule applies to pretty much any assemblage of five or more people). But for all I know, maybe many of them were booing at what could reasonably be seen as the unwelcome imposition of American political obsessions into English sport. I know if I were English, and even tepidly patriotic, I’d be thinking, “Why do we have to imitate whatever the stupid Yanks are doing?” Either way, the strident condemnation, the determination to crush even the smallest display of dissent, doesn’t give an impression of strength or confidence. It shows insecurity and weakness, a recognition that if anyone other than carefully-chosen media elites is allowed a voice, things could get out of hand in a hurry. Maybe there are racists among the jeering masses. But when the non-racists are a bunch of tongue-swallowing cowards, well, you take your heroes where you can find them.