All hell would break loose – Gemili warns IOC over plans to sanction BLM protests

By Sports Desk May 21, 2021

Adam Gemili has accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of hypocrisy over its plans to sanction athletes who take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter at this year's Games in Tokyo.

Last month, the IOC executive board approved recommendations in regard to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, relating to athlete expression at Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

Although it pledged to "increase opportunities for athletes' expression during the Olympic Games" and celebrate "Peace, Respect, Solidarity, Inclusion and Equality" through collective branding, it was deemed "not appropriate" for competitors to "demonstrate or express their views on the field of play".

As such, any actions such as taking a knee at a podium ceremony will be subject to sanctions, although it is unclear at this stage what the punishments might be.

British sprinter Gemili told The Guardian "all hell would break loose" if athletes were banned for protesting.

If he is able to improve upon his fourth-placed finish in the 200m at Rio 2016, the 27-year-old explained he would not be dissuaded from taking a stand and cited double standards over the celebrations of Black Power protests at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico and the IOC's present position.

"For sure I would be happy to take a knee if I was successful at the Olympics and I had that opportunity," he said.

"I would definitely protest. The fact the IOC is telling athletes 'no, you can't do it' is only going to make people more angry. If the opportunity came, I wouldn't shy away from it.

"This is what I don’t understand: the IOC are so quick to use Tommie Smith, the picture of his fist raised, but they are saying 'actually, no one is allowed to do that'. It doesn't make sense.

"I don't think you can ban an athlete for protesting. And if they do, all hell would break loose and it could go south and sour very quickly. They will be very naive to even try to do that.

"The Olympics is not a place to be political, it's a place for sport and to bring the whole world together, but the whole BLM movement is more than political. It's about being a good human, and equal rights for everyone."

The IOC reported 70 per cent of over 3,500 athlete respondents to their survey were against demonstrations on the "field of play" or at official ceremonies, with that figure dropping fractionally to 67 per cent for podium ceremonies.

Nevertheless, Gemili feels the governing body's methodology was flawed when it came to accurately showing the strength of feeling from athletes of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"I think the IOC knew exactly what it was doing," he added.

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