Naomi Osaka, the new women’s champion of the US Open, attracted attention not just for her game. She appeared for each of her matches with a face mask that featured the name of an African-American killed in the recent past. Separately, Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas displayed support for Black Lives Matter in his attire.
Athletes have taken political stands earlier. But it hasn’t been easy. International sports federations discourage an open display of a political stance as it can upset one of the constituent members or the commercial sponsors. In this context, it is pertinent that cricketer Mooen Ali, representing England in 2014, ran into trouble with a wristband that carried the message ‘Free Palestine’. His national cricket board allowed him to wear the wristband but the global federation, ICC, overruled the former.
The Black Lives Matter has enhanced political awareness among many athletes in different continents. The surge in political consciousness and a desire to use the sports field to make a statement is going to make it tougher for administrators to balance multiple interests. We are in for a churning.