Team GB track star Dina Asher-Smith has insisted that Olympic athletes should be allowed the freedom to get on their knees, fearing the Games bosses will try to punish those who do.
The International Olympic Committee has been working its way through that important issue, with the belated concession this month that athletes can “express their opinions” before and after the competition, but not on the podium.
It remains to be seen if anyone will test the limits of those rules by taking a knee at a medal ceremony, but Asher-Smith has made a thumping contribution to the wider debate.
She labeled the stage ban as “unenforceable” and said she sees “protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right.”
“If you were to punish someone for standing up to racial inequality, how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce it? Would you revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is wrong?’ she said.
“How would you check that, especially when people think so strongly about it now? How would that go optically? I see it as totally impracticable.’
Asher-Smith did not clarify whether she would take a knee in the event that she wins a medal over her 100m, 200m and relay campaigns. But the 200m world champion was determined not to be silenced.
Dina Asher-Smith defended athletes’ rights to protest racism at Tokyo Games
The IOC has not specified how athletes who defy the ban will be punished, but said they will take disciplinary action.
Athletes are allowed to get on their knees before the game starts to expose racial injustice, speak to the media and post their views online, or wear clothes with a protest slogan during a press conference.
But political statements at events, victory ceremonies and in the Olympic Village are still out of the question, the IOC said.
“I didn’t know that,” Asher-Smith said when he learned that there is still a stage ban.
“If it’s something that’s so close to your heart – especially for me that subject would be racism, as a black woman you think of racism – I just think you can’t control people’s voices on that.
Some of the most iconic moments of the Olympics were Tommie Smith’s black power salute way back (in 1968).
“That’s something people remember the Olympics about, something they’re very proud to see at the Olympics.
“So if they think they’ll suddenly stand up and say ‘absolutely not,’ they would be shooting themselves in the foot.”
The IOC – led by Thomas Bach (above) – says athletes can ‘express their opinions’ before and after the competition, but not on stage
Team GB’s Lucy Bronze kneels in support of the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of their opening match against Chile at the Olympics
Alex Morgan from the US and Hanna Glas from Sweden join the gesture at the start of their clash in Tokyo
It comes after the women’s soccer teams of the USA and Team GB fell to their knees during their opening games at the Olympics on Wednesday.
All players participated in the gesture ahead of the kick-off between four-time Olympic champions USA and Sweden in Tokyo, an hour after Team GB and Chile did the same in Sapporo.
No images of the gesture have been posted on the official Tokyo 2020 live blog or social media pages, nor on the IOC platforms, under rules banning official social media teams from posting photos of the gesture.
New Zealand also took the knee in their match against Australia at Tokyo Stadium, while their opponents did not.
However, the Australian players held onto the country’s indigenous flag as they posed for their pre-match team photo.
Taking the knee, which has been 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 England’s men’s team were subjected to a storm of online racial abuse this month following their final defeat, which drew widespread condemnation from the squad captain, manager, royalty, religious leaders and politicians.
A source told The Guardian that the IOC’s stance was strange given the celebration of past protests at the Games, including the iconic image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in solidarity with black people in 1968.
Asher-Smith described protesting racism as a ‘fundamental human right’
Asher-Smith has also caused a stir among sprinters of the world, saying she is being read to ‘let loose’ at the Games in a three-pronged medal chase.
The question of whether the 25-year-old can get on a podium here and become Britain’s first female sprinter to win an Olympic medal since Dorothy Hyman won 100m silver and 200m bronze in Rome in 1960 is one of the most controversial. fascinating subplots for Team GB.
Asher-Smith’s 2019 200m and 100m silver world titles are testament to her ability to navigate the rounds of a championship, and it’s notable that in 2021 she has 12 wins from 12 races, but it’s unbelievable. deny that the clock favors many of its rivals.
She is ninth in the 100m standings this year with a season best of 10.91 seconds – far behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s 10.63 world leader – and is in an identical position with her score of 22.06 in the 200 meters, albeit on the back of just two races. Asher-Smith isn’t worried.
Team GB’s Asher-Smith (right) is one of the favorites for the 100m and 200m . this summer
She said: ‘Everyone has their predictions written on paper, but we don’t run on paper, we run on the track. People always run fast – that’s the sport. It’s the championships that really matter.’
She added: “At Heathrow a lot of BA people said, ‘Are you nervous?’ I was like, “No, what’s there to be nervous about?”
“This is on a different scale, but I’m in line for a race and I’ve been doing that since I was eight years old and I’m very, very good at it. I love a show, I love a stage, I love putting together a great performance when the lights are really on.
“That’s just part of me. My coach (John Blackie) always tells me to hold back my excitement until the championships and then let it go. You will see more energy from me now.’
2019 World Championship winner Asher-Smith (third from left) says she’s not nervous before Tokyo