July 21, (THEWILL) – Before their opening 2-0 win over Chile at the Summer Games in Tokyo, the female football team of Great Britain made Olympic history by becoming the first athletes to protest on the field of play within International Olympic Committee rules, in the continuing pledge against racism and discrimination.
Team GB took the knee in furtherance of the football world’s objective to raise awareness of the plague of those twin negatives: racism and discrimination. It was part of a prevailing trend that many players have become used to for their club and individual nations and which the GB team pledged to partake in at the Games in Tokyo.
A party of the historic occurrence was Chile, as they also repeated the gesture to their credit, as there was no compulsion for any team that was unwilling to participate. Furthermore, it was also encouraging that the USA and Sweden also did same before Sweden shocked the USWNT with a 3-nil opener.
The historic mark set by Team GB became possible when the IOC recently relaxed regulations on displays of activism, amending its controversial “Rule 50”. By the amendment, which previously outlawed any forms of protest, athletes could now make a stand before their events, on social media and in interviews only.
The IOC still reserved the prohibition of protests during the competition itself, on the medals podium, in the Olympic village or during the opening and closing ceremonies of all their organised competitions with the threat of penalties for flouting these prohibitions.
In the change effected in early July, the rule states that athletes still “must respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes. It should be recognised that any behaviour and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence on any basis whatsoever is contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.”
But for the sustained pressure from sportsmen and women that was mounted on the IOC before it eventually caved in to effect the change, the Team GB knee stance could have been liable for punishment. But, many athletes had shown a readiness to accept punishment because they were going to join the knee-bow against racism and discrimination.
The need for more awareness was never clearer than at the end of the Euro 2020 competition with racist abuse aimed at a trio of England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, whose skin colour was implicated in online vitriol and verbal assaults they endured after their penalty misses helped Italy beat England in the final.
Footballers of Team GB squad made a decision last week that they would take the knee before their games, having done the same before matches in the Women’s Super League, and for the majority of the squad, while playing for England as well.
Having done the knee, Team GB opened their Olympic games with a brace from Ellen White, to go past the Chileans with a 2-0 win. The experience and quality of the attacking force of Kim Little, Lauren Hemp and Ellen White proved too much to handle for a Chile defence that looked lacking in confidence and overtaken by the brimming GB quality.