England cricketer Moeen Ali has been warned not to wear wristbands with political slogans after he took to the field against India displaying the slogans “Free Palestine” and “Save Gaza”.
This comes less than a week after a Malaysian cyclist at the Commonwealth Games was cautioned by his team for wearing gloves with “Save Gaza” written across the knuckles.
The two incidents have reignited the debate about political protest in sport. The International Cricket Council states that players should not wear “messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes,” while the Commonwealth Games Federation consider it “inappropriate for any form of protest [to take place] in a Games venue.”
Yet politics, religion and race have regularly collided with competition in the sporting arena. Here are eight memorable moments where sport became a platform for protest.
Emily Davison and the Epsom Derby
Suffragette Emily Davison ran out under King George V’s horse Amner during the Epsom Derby, on 4 June 1913. Her purpose remains unclear, but she was trampled by the horse and died of her injuries four days later.
The Black Power salute
African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history when they stood on the podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics with their fists in the air. The 200m sprinters were protesting against racial discrimination in the USA; they were booed as they left the podium, although their action was supported by Australian silver medallist Peter Norman. In the press conference afterwards Smith said, “Black America will understand what we did tonight.” Two days later they were suspended from the national team and sent home to America.
Anti-apartheid and South Africa
In 1969, anti-apartheid demonstrators “greeted” the South African rugby team on their arrival at Heathrow airport. The protest was designed to disrupt the rugby tour and isolate South Africa’s sports teams during the apartheid regime. Pitch invaders delayed a match at Twickenham, organised by a group called Stop the Seventy Tour, led by future Labour MP Peter Hain. The protests worked: a subsequent South African cricket tour was cancelled, and many other sporting boycotts followed.
1980 Olympic boycott
The United States led a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. President Jimmy Carter led the call for a boycott following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. 65 countries entered the boycott including Canada and West Germany, although Great Britain and 79 other nations did send teams to compete.
Robbie Fowler and Merseyside dockers
After scoring in a European Cup Winners’ Cup tie in 1997, Liverpool footballer Robbie Fowler revealed a T-shirt supporting Merseyside dockers who had lost their jobs. Uefa fined him 2000 Swiss francs.
Neil Horan and the Silverstone Grand Prix
Former priest Cornelius “Neil” Horan was sentenced to two months in jail after he ran onto the track at Silverstone during the 2003 British Grand Prix. He held a banner saying “Read the Bible. The Bible is always right.” The following year he tackled one of the competitors during the Olympic men’s marathon, and his unpleasant public outbursts didn’t end there: in 2009 he performed an Irish jig during auditions for Britain’s Got Talent.
Darren Campbell and the lap of honour
2006 should have been one of British sprinter Darren Campbell’s proudest moments, as he was part of the team who won gold in the 4x100m relay at the European Championships. But Campbell refused to take part in the lap of honour. One of his teammates, Dwain Chambers, had returned to the track following a two-year doping ban, and Campbell was unhappy at his inclusion in the team. “I just can’t take the rubbish any more,” he told the BBC. “I’m not a hypocrite. How can I do a lap of honour?”
Trenton Oldfield and the 2012 Boat Race
Australian Trenton Oldfield interrupted the 158th Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge in 2012 as a protest, he said, against elitism and inequality. He was jailed for six months and faced deportation, but a court ruling in December 2013 allowed him to stay in the UK.