WAYNE ROONEY has slammed the 'disgraceful and mindless behaviour' of a number of Millwall fans during yesterday's clash with Derby County.
The Rams boss oversaw his first victory as interim manager – but the triumph was overshadowed by a section of Lions supporters booing their own players taking a knee.
The occasion marked the first time that Lions fans had been able to attend a home fixture since the coronavirus pandemic struck the UK in March.
But what was supposed to be a joyous occasion was turned sour by the actions of some of his side's returning supporters.
Players in England's top leagues have been taking a knee since football's resumption in June, in order to protest against worldwide racial discrimination.
Rooney, 35, expressed his disappointment at the scenes in an interview with talkSPORT after the match.
And he continued that sentiment with a statement posted to social media on Sunday.
It read: "Yesterday I witnessed disgraceful and mindless behaviour by a large section of the Millwal supporters in the stadium.
"Prior to the match we were aware of the possibility of a planned disruptiveresponse 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.
"The professionalism of the players on both sides throughout the game was a credit to our profession, after such an incident.
"On behalf of Derby County Football Club I want it to be clear to everyone associated with the club that we represent all sectors of the community regardless of colour, gender or sexuality.
"Fans being allowed back in to stadiums is vital for the wellbeing of everybody involved in our sport from fans to players to chairmen to owners.
"It is therefore really important that the vast majority of us show respect and support each other and do not tolerate or accept the actions of the mindless few."
The booing at The Den took place just a day after Millwall had released a statement, signalling their intentions to keep taking a knee before matches until they unveil 'a new and comprehensive anti-discrimination strategy' in the New Year.
Millwall star Mahlon Romeo has admitted that he was 'almost lost for words' when a section of his own club's supporters chose to boo players taking a knee prior to yesterday's match.
After the loss the defender, who has played for the Lions since 2015, told the South London Press: "Today's game, to me now, has become irrelevant.
"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.
"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.
"What they've done is booed and condemned a peaceful gesture which was put in place to highlight, combat and stop any discriminatory behaviour and racism. That's it – that's all that gesture is.
"And the fans have chosen to boo that, which for the life of me I can't understand. It has offended me and everyone who works for this club – the players and the staff.
"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, 25, also accused those booing of 'spreading hatred' with their actions.
But if we're being realistic it made me feel very small and it made me feel personally disrespected
He continued: "I'm almost lost for words. I don't know how they thought that would make me feel. I don't know what they thought taking a knee stood for.
"But I think I've explained it simply enough. I feel really low – probably the lowest I've felt in my time at this club.
"It's something I can't wrap my head around. People will have their beliefs and views, which everyone is entitled to. I'm not trying to stop or contain – but if your beliefs and views oppose a positive change in society then don't come to a football ground and spread them around.
"If it's negative, don't think you can come to a football ground and this is the place where you can spread hatred essentially.
"When fans are booing a peaceful gesture to highlight racism, it naturally makes you ask yourself 'why am I putting myself through this?'.
"I'm sure not all Millwall fans share the same opinion – it's a small collection. But if we're being realistic it made me feel very small and it made me feel personally disrespected."
Home manager Gary Rowett was also frustrated, with the return of supporters having been overshadowed.
The club do an enormous amount of work on anti-racism and the club do a lot of work in the community and there is some really positive stuff, so of course I am disappointed
He said: "I'm disappointed that we are talking about that when we should be talking about the fact we are all back and we want to enjoy the football match again.
"The club do an enormous amount of work on anti-racism and the club do a lot of work in the community and there is some really positive stuff, so of course I am disappointed."
"Is it (taking a knee) a political message, is it an anti-discrimination message? The players have come out and said they don't support the political aspect, but they do support the anti-discrimination aspect of it and of course we all do."
On Sunday morning, Millwall released a statement condemning the actions of their supporters, and announcing their intentions to meet with Kick It Out officials over the coming days 'in an attempt to use Saturday’s events as a catalyst for more rapid solutions.'
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