Athletes allowed to take a knee, says Commonwealth Games chief

Act of taking a knee to protest racial injustice was started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick (centre). (AP pic)

LONDON: Athletes competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England will be allowed to take a knee in support of worldwide anti-racism movements, competition organisers said.

Several major sports organisations have moved to allow protests at their events following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed athletes are still banned from protesting at the Olympic Games but Commonwealth Games organisers said they would respect people’s rights to voice their opinions.

“The movement is challenging all institutions to really look introspectively at what we can do to be fairer, freer, have better equality. Sport is no different,” Commonwealth Games chief executive David Grevemberg told reporters on Thursday.

“We are comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation and we need to embrace it. We maybe have more responsibility because of the shared history of the Commonwealth so we need to find solutions that don’t build walls but rather build bridges.”

Grevemberg said athlete protests have long been a part of the Commonwealth Games, citing the example of former Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman, who wrapped herself in the Aboriginal flag after winning the 200m and 400m races in the 1994 Games.

Freeman went on to win the 400m race at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, afterwards draping herself in both the Aboriginal and Australian flags.

“The reason her moment was so powerful at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was because of what she did in Victoria in 1994,” Grevemberg added.