Athletes from across the globe taking a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
However, such Athlete protest was once forbidden at the Olympics.
Women’s soccer players from Great Britain and Chile kicked off the games by taking a knee to protest the racial discrimination that Black players on England’s national team faced after losing the UEFA European Championship earlier this month.
The Japanese women’s soccer team later did the same, a rare act of protest by a Japanese team. Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado took a knee and put her first in the air after finishing her floor routine on Sunday.
“This global stage with a global audience is a rare opportunity,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and a professor at the University of Central Florida.
The pickup in demonstrations follows the International Olympic Committee’s recent decision to relax decades-old restrictions on athlete expression meant to maintain neutrality at the games.
The amended guidelines in Rule 50 of the Olympic charter now allow athletes to engage in demonstrations at select times and sites as long as those actions do not constitute or signal “discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence.”
The latest actions highlight a longtime paradox for athletes: They are held up as heroes until they use their platforms to make political statements.
That has started to change thanks to National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was sidelined from his job after taking a knee to protest police brutality during the U.S. national anthem at a 2016 game.
But even now, athletes aren’t immune to the consequences of speaking out. American gymnastics star Simone Biles and Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka both faced criticism for bringing mental health to the fore during this year’s Olympic games.
Osaka also took a thrashing on social media after losing a match at the Olympics on Tuesday, with some questioning why she represented Japan as the final torchbearer in the games’ opening ceremony.