Adam Gemili has vowed to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter if he wins an Olympic medal in Tokyo – and warned the IOC that “all hell will break loose” if it tries to ban athletes from protesting on the podium.
The British sprinter also accused the International Olympic Committee of double standards for hailing athletes who made Black Power salutes at the Mexico Games in 1968 while preventing modern-day stars from doing the same.
“For sure I would be happy to take a knee if I was successful at the Olympics and I had that opportunity,” said Gemili, who finished fourth in the 200m at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and has won multiple world 4x100m relay medals. “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.”
Under Rule 50, athletes are banned from protesting on the podium, field of play or at ceremonies – although the IOC is yet to reveal what sanctions rule breakers in Tokyo will face. Gemili said he was puzzled by the IOC’s stance. “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. It’s not something which should be turned away so easily like the IOC is doing. I find it quite astounding that the IOC is telling people it is going to ban them from Olympics, or medals, or whatever.”
Last month the IOC said 67% of the athletes it surveyed backed keeping Rule 50 in place. Gemili questioned the IOC’s methodology, however, saying he did not believe it accurately captured the dissent from athletes of different races and ethnicities. “I think the IOC knew exactly what it was doing.”
Gemili, who will open his outdoor season at Gateshead Diamond League on Sunday after recovering from a foot injury, said the British Olympic Association and other Team GB athletes were “very supportive” of his stance. “As bad as it sounds, athletes have always been at the bottom of the pecking order. We don’t have any power. But we’re actually the ones that are entertaining the world.”