London (AFP) – Team GB announced on Thursday that their women’s football squad will take the knee before matches at the Tokyo Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have released new guidelines softening a long-standing ban on political protests at the Games.
Athletes will now be allowed to take the knee before play begins to highlight racial injustice, speak to the media and post online about their views, or wear clothing with a protest slogan at a press conference.
But political statements during events, victory ceremonies and at the Olympic Village are still off the cards, according to the IOC.
Andy Anson, British Olympic Association CEO, said: “As one of the most diverse and inclusive sports teams in the UK, Team GB will always support any athlete from any sport and their right to promote equality and a more just society, where it is carried out peacefully, respectfully and without disruption.
“By taking the knee our women’s football side are embodying the values of Team GB.”
The England men’s team took the knee before all of their Euro 2020 matches despite an initial backlash and some fans booed, while senior politicians such as Home Secretary Priti Patel labelled the act “gesture politics”.
After England players were racially abused in the wake of their final defeat on penalties to Italy, defender Tyrone Mings criticised Patel, saying she had “stoked the fire” with her views on an anti-racism gesture.
No British side qualified for the men’s Olympic football tournament, but a women’s team made up of players from England, Scotland and Wales will compete in Tokyo.
“The players and staff have been taking the knee at club and international level for over a year now and we were all united in our decision to continue doing whatever we can to raise awareness of racism and discrimination in all its forms, standing in unity and solidarity with all those whose lives are affected,” said head coach Hege Riise.
Steph Houghton and Sophie Ingle, captains of England and Wales respectively, and Scotland’s vice-skipper Kim Little have been named as the three Team GB captains for the Games.
The trio will captain matches on rotation through the tournament.
Team GB begin their tournament on July 21 against Chile before facing Japan and Canada in Group E.