Olympics WILL show footballers taking the knee on social media

Olympic chiefs say they WILL show footballers taking the knee on their social media channels after Team GB and US players’ gestures were censored

  • All players from Team GB, the US, Sweden, Chile and New Zealand took the knee
  • The IOC relaxed rules allowing for political protests at the Games in Japan
  • However, officials initially said gestures would not be broadcast on social media
  • But in an apparent U-Turn, official social channels will now show such gestures 
  • Team GB won their opening fixture 2-0 while US suffered a shock 3-0 defeat 
  • Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here

The International Olympic Committee says it will start including images of athletes taking a knee in its official highlights reels and social media channels.

Players from five women’s soccer teams – Team GB, the US, Sweden, Chile and New Zealand – knelt in support of racial justice on Wednesday, the first day it was allowed at the Olympic Games after a ban on political statements lasting decades was lifted.

But Official Olympic social media channels – including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages – did not include pictures of the athlete activism on Wednesday. 

Those images were also excluded from the official Tokyo Olympic highlights package provided by the IOC to media that could not broadcast the games live. 

But in an apparent change of policy on Thursday, the Olympic body said: ‘The IOC is covering the Games on its owned and operated platforms and such moments will be included [in highlights] as well.’ 

On Thursday morning Tokyo time, an image of Team GB’s Lucy Bronze taking the knee ahead of the team’s match against Chile in Japan was shared by the @Olympics twitter account, also showing a Chilean player kneeling in the background.

An accompanying message read: ‘Sports started yesterday. Just some of the highlights: Japan starting strong in softball. Teams were kneeling before the competition.’

On Thursday morning Tokyo time, an image of Team GB’s Lucy Bronze taking the knee ahead of the team’s match against Chile in Japan was shared by the @Olympics twitter account (pictured) along with the message: ‘Sports started yesterday. Just some of the highlights: Japan starting strong in softball. Teams were kneeling before the competition’

The US and Team GB women’s football teams took the knee during their opening matches in the Olympics on Wednesday.

All players took part in the gesture prior to kick-off between four-time Olympic champions the US and Sweden in Tokyo, an hour after Team GB and Chile did likewise in Sapporo.

And the final women’s soccer game of the day saw Australia’s players pose with an Indigenous flag and link arms before kickoff while their New Zealand counterparts knelt. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently relaxed the rules for protests at the Games, softening a long-standing ban on political statements at the global sporting event.

But it was revealed on Wednesday that the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers had forbidden their social media teams from sharing photos showing athletes taking the knee.

No images of the gesture were posted on the official Tokyo 2020 live blog or its social media pages, nor on the IOC’s platforms, during or after the matches on Wednesday.

A source told The Guardian the IOC’s stance was odd considering its celebration of former protests at the Games including the iconic image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in solidarity with black people in 1968.

Alex Morgan of the US and Hanna Glas of Sweden take part in the gesture at the start of their clash in Tokyo

Pictured: Players of Team New Zealand take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the Women’s First Round Group G match between Australia and New Zealand during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021

Following the relaxation of the ban, athletes will now be allowed to take a 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, the IOC said.

‘For us it really feels right to stand up for human rights,’ Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt told reporters after her team’s 3-0 victory.

‘It was a communication with the U.S. team before, so for us it feels good to do that and it is something we stand for as a team.’

For Team GB captain Steph Houghton it was important to follow through with a promise made before the Games.

‘Taking the knee was something we spoke about as a group. We feel so strongly and we want to show we’re united,’ she said.

‘We want to fight all forms of discrimination and as a group of women we wanted to kneel against it.

‘It was a proud moment because the Chile players took the knee too to show how united we are as sport.’

All 22 players took part in the gesture prior to kick-off between four-time Olympic champions the US and Sweden in Tokyo

New Zealand also took the knee in their match against Australia at the Tokyo Stadium while their opponents did not. 

However, the Australia players held the country’s indigenous flag when they posed for their pre-game team photo. 

Taking the knee, which has become widely used in the Premier League since the Black Lives Matter protests last year, proved controversial in the Euro 2020 tournament with some fans booing the gesture.

Black players in the England men’s team were subjected to a storm of online racist abuse this month after their final defeat, drawing widespread condemnation from the squad’s captain, manager, royalty, religious leaders and politicians. 

But the women’s players at the Olympics did not have to contend with fan backlash as they were playing in front of empty stadiums.

The gesture originated in the United States when American football player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem on September 1, 2016 to call attention to racial inequality and police brutality in the country.

His action led to a series of national anthem protests, and was adopted by other sports while also being seen during Black Lives Matter protests in the US and UK, among other nations – particularly in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd.  

The matches are being played in front of empty stadiums due to the ongoing Covid situation in Japan

Team GB won the Group E opener in Sapporo 2-0, with Manchester City striker Ellen White scoring twice and having a goal disallowed by VAR for offside.

Hege Riise’s side are bidding to become the first British team to win an Olympic football medal.

Lauren Hemp’s header put the ball in front of Ellen White for a close-in goal in the 18th minute. White’s second goal was a volley to the far post in the 75th.

Chile, ranked No. 37 in the world, was making its Olympic debut. Known as La Roja, Chile qualified for Tokyo by beating Cameroon 2-1 in an intercontinental playoff.

Meanwhile Sweden pulled off a shock result, beating favourites the US by 3-0.

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