Players from Japan and Great Britain’s women’s soccer teams reportedly dropped to one knee before their match at the Tokyo Olympics on July 24.
Why this matters: American footballer Colin Kaepernick first “took the knee” in September 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S. Since then, the gesture has been used to call attention against racism, discrimination and social injustice, most recently in the height of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd.
- Saki Kumagai, captain of Japan’s “Nadeshiko” team, said they decided to do the gesture after hearing that Great Britain would do it. The British team first took a knee on July 21 before a match against Chile, which also responded similarly, according to NPR.
- “The whole team talked about it, and it gave us a chance to think about racism. We also decided to take the knee to show respect for the actions of the British,” Kumagai said, according to The Mainichi.
Olympics policy: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) relaxed its rules on “athlete expression” on July 2. Under the new guidelines, athletes at the Tokyo Olympics can take the knee or perform similar gestures as long as their actions are not disruptive and do not target specific “people, countries and/or their dignity.”
- The Olympic Charter seeks to uphold the neutrality of the Games. With the new Rule 50.2, athletes are able to express their views in venues such as (1) the Field of Play (before the start of the competition), (2) in the “mixed zones” (including when speaking to the media), (3) in the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) or the Main Media Centre (MMC) (including when speaking to the media), and (4) during press conferences, to name a few.
- Aside from Great Britain and Chile, the U.S., Sweden and New Zealand’s women’s soccer teams also took the knee on July 21. This made them “the first athletes to use the Olympic platform for a display of activism,” according to AP News.
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