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Ahead of kick-off, the symbolic gesture was met with a chorus of boos from a section of supporters inside the Riverside Stadium, before those jeers were eventually drowned out by applause.
"I did hear it," Southgate said in his press conference after the full-time whistle. "It's not something on behalf of our black players I wanted to hear because it feels as though it's a criticism of them."
"It's not something on behalf of our black players I wanted to hear because it feels as though it's a criticism of them" :speaking_head:- Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 3, 2021
Gareth Southgate has hit out at the section of fans who booed when players took the knee before their friendly on Wednesday night pic.twitter.com/4KNnqtLYFp
He continued, saying: "I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it's a political stand that they don't agree with. That's not the reason the players are doing it. We're supporting each other. I was pleased that was drowned out by the majority of the crowd.
"We can't deny the fact that it happened. I think the most important thing for our players to know is all their teammates and all the staff are very supportive. I think the majority of people understand it. I think some people aren't quite understanding the message. I suppose we're seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment."
BBC 5 Live Sport soon uploaded a clip of the booing on social media. "I'm quite taken aback as to how loud that was," said commentator John Murray on the incident.
"I'm quite taken aback as to how loud that was" - @bbcjohnmurray- BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) June 2, 2021
Listen to the moment some fans inside the Riverside booed England and Austria players taking the knee.
:calling::soccer: https://t.co/5Du5Yilmm1#ENGAUT #bbcfootball pic.twitter.com/FbeFU4Bm0I
England's match-winner Bukayo Saka was confused as to why fans started booing when they had taken the knee.
"I don't understand why they did it," the Arsenal winger said. "I heard some boos and I heard some claps. But you'll have to ask the fans that were booing to understand why they did it."
Jack Grealish also expressed his dislike at the reaction, and said his England teammates 'didn't like it.'
"I obviously was aware of it,' said the Aston Villa captain. "I heard it and I didn't like it at all. None of the players liked it.
"I think that will get talked about in the next few days. It's a thing we don't want in football in general and especially in our games."
Bukayo Saka was glowing when I just spoke to him. So proud and happy to score his first England goal.- Jessica Creighton (@JessCreighton1) June 2, 2021
And then I asked him why England fans boo'ed as players took a knee. He looked bemused: "I don't understand it."
It was an incident that angered many on social media, too.
It's sickening that people should boo England's players taking the knee.- Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) June 2, 2021
If you don't like it, just shut up and respect their right to make an apolitical gesture against discrimination.
Disgusting to hear so many supposed England fans loudly boo a team with many black players for taking the knee to protest racial inequality, then loudly cheer one of those black players when he scored.- Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 3, 2021
Next time these idiots boo, the players should walk off.
Pretty grim to hear so many fans boo the knee here at the Riverside (although good to hear so much applause trying to drown them out). Still, it does make you despair a bit. What do you think the England team is all about?- Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) June 2, 2021
England fans booed players 'taking the knee'.- Antoine Allen (@AntoineSpeaker) June 3, 2021
Boos were heard in some stadiums on the last day of the season.
I spoke to @Towno10 from @kickitout about what the gesture of solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter has achieved and what the future holds for football's fight against racism pic.twitter.com/Tj2L6n0I2g
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