The members of five Olympic soccer teams started their matches by taking a knee to protest racism worldwide and the sixth team, from Australia, linked arms and posed with a flag of indigenous peoples, initiating a string of political messages contrary to the rules of the Olympic games, the Associated Press reports.
At the beginning of the England vs. Chile women’s soccer match, the referee blew her whistle to start the game, but the players on the pitch from both teams dropped to one knee for about ten seconds. The same happened at the US-Sweden women’s match that started an hour later.
In the third game, the women on the Australian team linked arms and held up the flag of the Australian Aboriginal peoples, while their opponents from New Zealand took a knee.
“It’s an opportunity for us to continue to use our voices and use our platforms to talk about the things that affect all of us intimately in different ways,” U.S. captain Megan Rapinoe said. (The US team suffered a surprising 3-0 to the Swedish team.)
The International Olympic Committee modified its rules, which initially barred all forms of political protest, to allow them prior to the start of play. Athletes were encouraged to avoid political statements during play and during the awards ceremonies.