The British women’s soccer team plan to take a knee before kickoff at the Tokyo Olympics.
The players have been performing the anti-racism stance with their separate teams over the last year and the IOC relaxed its rules this month to allow Olympic athletes to make gestures of protest in the field of play at the Tokyo Games.
“I feel lucky to be part of a group that wants change to stop racism, discrimination,” Britain forward Ellen White said in a video call from Japan, “and stand in solidarity with those who have been affected.”
The decision was made after a team meeting before flying to Japan. The four nations that form Britain usually play soccer as separate teams internationally but they are allowed to compete at the Olympics, qualifying through England’s run to the 2019 Women’s World Cup semifinals.
“This whole group had the same message and we want to try to help that change in taking the knee,” said White, who plays for England and Manchester City. “I feel really positive that us doing that will promote change.”
The Olympics start next week with Britain opening its group-stage campaign against Chile in Sapporo and then playing host Japan and Canada and Chile.
England’s men took a knee before all of their games at the European Championship, even though some fans and politicians publicly disagreed with them.
“We are clear that taking the knee is an important symbol of peaceful protest against discrimination, injustice, and inequality in society and we are glad that the IOC have acknowledged the importance of this form of freedom of expression,” Britain coach Hege Riise said.
“We will do so with the utmost respect for our fellow competitors, officials, and the IOC, with due regard for the ideals that lie at the heart of the Olympic movement.”
By Rob Harris