Athletes Take the Knee at Olympics for First Time Ever

Great Britain's women's soccer team has taken the knee before their Tokyo 2020 Olympic soccer match against Chile, the first time the protest to highlight racial injustice has been performed at the Games.

The women's team had previously confirmed that it would be taking the knee before its matches in Tokyo after England's men's soccer team also did before every game at the Euro 2020 competition this summer.

Chile's players responded by also taking the knee in the Sapporo Dome in Japan's capital, which is being played without fans in attendance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that rules against protest at the Games this year would be relaxed, with athletes permitted to "express their views" before and after competing, but not during events, at ceremonies or at the Olympic Village.

Demi Stokes, a defender for Team GB's women's soccer team, previously told the BBC that the players "feel strongly" about taking the knee at the Tokyo Olympics.

"We know we have a big part to play. It's important we use our platforms to help in any way we can," said Stokes.

"We all feel strongly as individuals and as a team. We all understand what's been going on around racism and discrimination. It is the people that don't have a voice that we are standing up for.

"We want to show to everyone this is something serious. It's still happening. What a way to do it, on an Olympic stage."

In a statement praising the decision, the head of the British Olympic Association (BOA) Andy Anson said. "By taking the knee, our women's football side are embodying the values of Team GB."

New Zealand's women's soccer team said they would also take the knee before its opening match of the Tokyo Olympics against Australia later on Wednesday.

"We are delighted that the IOC has made room for athletes to use their voices for good at the Olympic Games and are proud of our athletes for making a global stand for greater racial equality," Rob Waddell, New Zealand's chef de mission in Tokyo, said in a statement.

"We fully support athlete advocacy where the New Zealand Team values are upheld."

The act of taking the knee as a form of protest was first made by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, and has since become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.

Players and officials in the English Premier League took the knee before every game of the 2020-21 season in the wake of the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

A number of other teams such as Belgium also took the knee before their games at Euro 2020.

Tokyo take the knee
Lucy Bronze of Team Great Britain takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the Women's First Round Group E match between Great Britain and Chile during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Dome on July 21, 2021 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Masashi Hara/Getty Images