For almost a year now, soccer players in England have been kneeling just before kickoff to show support for Black Lives Matter. During almost all of this period, English fans weren’t present for the matches. Thus, we had no sense of how they felt about this gesture.
But now fans are back, albeit in limited numbers. And earlier this week, fans in Middlesbrough (in England’s northeast) had the chance to express their feelings at the start of the England national team’s Euro 2020 warmup match against Austria.
ESPN reports that the booing was drowned out eventually by applause. It’s not clear whether that applause was mainly out of loyalty to the players, sympathy for their gesture, or both.
What’s clear is that a significant portion of crowd was so disgusted with the kneeling that fans booed their own national team.
ESPN offered this incoherent take on the matter:
Players have been taking a knee before kickoff in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but [Gareth] Southgate [the England manager] said some fans view it as a “political stand” they do not agree with.
But the Black Lives Matter movement is political — radically so. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that some fans take exception to kneeling in support of the movement. Nor, even if the movement were less toxic than it is, should it be surprising that some fans don’t like to see politics injected so ostentatiously into sports.
I don’t like to see it, either. Nonetheless, if players feel strongly enough to kneel in support of BLM, so be it. By the same token, if fans feel strongly enough to express their disapproval by booing, so be it.
Athletes shouldn’t be surprised or upset if, in response to their expression of support of a political movement, some fans respond by loudly registering disapproval.