The British women’s soccer team will take a knee before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The players have been performing the anti-racism stance with their separate teams over the past year and The International Olympic Committee relaxed its rules this month To allow Olympic athletes to make such gestures of protest on the field of play at the Tokyo Games.
“We stand up for people who don’t have a voice,” said British advocate Demi Stokes, who has spoken out before about her exposure to racial abuse. “We know we have a huge role to play. It is important that we use our platforms to help in any way we can.
“We want to show everyone that this is a serious thing. It still happens. What a way to do it, on an Olympic stage.”
The decision was made after the team met before traveling to Japan. The four nations that make up Britain usually play football as separate teams at international level, but are allowed to compete in the Olympics, qualifying through England’s march to the semi-finals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“I feel fortunate to be part of a group that wants change to stop racism and discrimination and to show solidarity with those affected,” British striker Elaine White said in a video call from Japan. “This whole group had the same message and we want to try to help with this change taking the knee. I feel really positive that we are doing that it will promote the change.”
The Olympic Games begin next week with Britain opening its group stage campaign against Chile in Sapporo, then facing hosts Japan, Canada and Chile.
“Unfortunately, it’s not easy for people to live freely based on the color of their skin, the gender they choose, or the people they choose to stay with in life,” said goalkeeper Carly Telford. “It’s a great opportunity to show the world that people can be whatever they want to be.”
England’s men injured their knee before all of their European Championship matches, although some fans and politicians publicly disagreed with them.
“We are clear that the knees are an important symbol of peaceful protest against discrimination, injustice and inequality in society and we are pleased that the International Olympic Committee has recognized the importance of this form of freedom of expression,” Britain’s coach Heiji Reese 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.”
Britain chose three captains during the tournament to represent the three nations on the team: Steve Hutton (England), Sophie Engel (Wales) and Kim Little (Scotland).