Athletes fight Olympic ban on taking a knee
New body vows to challenge Games rules for Tokyo 2020 Taylor distressed by lack of progress since Mexico City 1968
A new independent body for track and field athletes has pledged to lead the fight against a controversial rule banning Tokyo 2020 Olympians from taking a knee in solidarity with the anti-racism movement.
Christian Taylor, a double Olympic champion and inaugural president of the Athletics Association, immediately vowed to tackle the International Olympic Committee over its rule prohibiting political protests. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the American triple jumper, who will compete at the rearranged Games next year, said the Premier League had helped set a “beautiful and so powerful” precedent in taking the knee with the blessing of governing bodies.
Support for Black Lives Matter is likely to continue at next year’s
Games, he suggested, despite the IOC’s controversial rule 50, which also prohibits demonstrations against racism or discrimination.
Taylor said it was distressing that little progress had been made at the Olympics since two African-American medallists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the United States national anthem in Mexico City in 1968.
“There’s a great significance of the podium because the world is watching,” he said. “Everyone is saying how strong the symbolism is, but we’re talking 50 years on and nothing has changed: the athletes, if they go up to protest, will still be punished. We find this to be a pressing matter and something that we will push for change because we know it does go against our human rights.”
Fifa, the Football Association and America’s National Football League were among major sports organisations to remove sanctions last month for peaceful protest, following the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the United States in May. The association says its aim is to provide “track and field athletes with a meaningful voice, to fight for stronger athletes’ rights, and to seek an athletes-first approach to our sport”.
At its head is Taylor, who previously joined calls for an inquiry into Lord Coe’s business dealings following a Telegraph investigation into his role as World Athletics president.
The IOC is this weekend due to appoint the double Olympic champion as a member, despite previously suspending him from joining because of his role as chairman of CSM Sport & Entertainment, a global branding agency which works with a number of sports stars and firms with links to the Olympics. Lord Coe’s spokeswoman vehemently denies any conflict of interest or lack of transparency, but Taylor said greater scrutiny was still needed.
Symbolic: Tommie Smith’s black-gloved raised fist in Mexico City in 1968