(Reuters) – 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 more fair, more free, 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 200 and 400 metre races in the 1994 Games. Freeman went on to win the 400 metre 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.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)