(Reuters) – Adam Gemili said he would take a knee at the Tokyo Games if he wins a medal and the British sprinter predicts “all hell would break loose” if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) punishes athletes for protesting.
The IOC said last month it was retaining Rule 50 forbidding any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in venues and other Olympic areas for the July 23-Aug. 8 Games.
That means athletes risk punishment for gestures such as taking a knee or raising a fist.
“I would be happy to take a knee if I was successful at the Olympics and I had that opportunity,” Gemili, who finished fourth in the 200m at the 2016 Rio Games, told British media on Thursday.
“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.”
Gemili said he could not understand why the IOC were happy to keep using the image of former U.S. sprinter Tommie Smith, who was sent home from the 1968 Olympics after raising a black-gloved fist on the medal podium to protest racial inequality.
“The IOC are so quick to use Tommie Smith, the picture of him, fist raised, but then they are saying, ‘actually, no one is allowed to do that,'” he added.
Gemili agreed that while the Olympics is “not a place to be political” the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement was more than political.
“It’s about being a good human and equal rights for everyone is not something which should be turned away so easily like they’re doing,” he added.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)