Stick to sports? Here’s what could happen to Olympians who protest at Tokyo Games

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(NEW YORK) — Since the start of the Olympic Games in 1896, athletes have used the international stage to shine a light on social justice issues.

One of the most iconic protests came from Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold and bronze medalists in the 200-meter dash in 1968, who each put on a glove and raised a fist in protest of the treatment of Black people in the United States.

Since then, according to sports historians like Jules Boykoff and Louis Moore, the International Olympic Committee has cracked down on protests.

The rule, Article 50, has been reaffirmed by the IOC ahead of the Tokyo Games and states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

In June, a group of high-profile U.S. athletes, including Carlos, sent a letter to the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee asking to eliminate that part of the article, which since been updated to allow for athletes to express their views in specific places and mediums, like when talking to the media, at team meetings or on the field of play prior to competition.

This amendment goes on to say that protests can’t be targeted “directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organizations and/or their dignity,” and “not disruptive.” Their examples of disruptive protests include expressions during another athlete’s or team’s national anthem or introduction.

The IOC said the rule is intended to preserve the neutrality of sports and the neutrality of the Olympics.

“Focus at the Olympic Games must remain on athletes’ performances, sport and the international unity and harmony that the Olympic Movement seeks to advance,” the IOC’s Athlete’s Commission states on the Article 50 guidelines. “It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.”

But Moore, a historian from Grand Valley State University, said that for marginalized groups, it’s impossible to separate the Olympics from politics.

“The Olympics in itself is political,” Moore said. “The United States has participated in the Jim Crow society. It’s these athletes that are going to the Olympics with USA across their chest, and they’re coming back as second-class citizens. Let’s say they don’t speak up — but they’re still going with an intent of proving something.”

Athletes who protest may face consequences or disciplinary actions, although the IOC did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment on what specific punishments may look like.

Protests of the past

One of the earliest protests occurred in 1906, when Peter O’Connor, an Irish track athlete, traveled to Greece with his Irish flag in hand. However, a technicality in the rules meant that since Ireland didn’t have an Olympic Council, Irish athletes would be competing for the English.

When he placed second in the long jump, England’s Union Jack was set to wave over O’Connor on the podium. But instead, O’Connor scaled a flag pole and replaced the Union Jack with Ireland’s “Erin go Bragh” flag. Down below, his fellow Irish athletes protected him from security.

In 1968, Smith and Carlos were suspended and expelled from the games for their protest. The two also didn’t wear shoes on the podium, and instead wore black socks to represent poverty in the Black community.

Smith, Carlos and Peter Norman, the Australian second-place winner of the 200-meter race who supported their movement, all wore the badges of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. The group, established by sociologist Harry Edwards, was created to spotlight inequality and injustice.

Smith and Carlos were blacklisted, and the backlash took a toll on their personal and professional relationships, according to Boykoff, the historian.

“They paid a real price for their athlete activism,” Boykoff added. “Both found it difficult to find work when they came back to the United States.”

Another track athlete, Wyomia Tyus, also was a part of the activist organization and protested at the Mexico City Games. Instead of wearing her proper team uniform, she sported black shorts in the Olympic 100-meter final. It was her way of silently protesting racial injustice in the U.S.

Also at the 1986 Games, Věra Čáslavská, a Czechoslovakian gymnast, turned her head away from the Soviet flag during the medal ceremony in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia shortly before the Games. Čáslavská fled the country as an outspoken critic of the Soviet regime.

In 2012, Damien Hooper, an Indigenous boxer from Australia, wore a T-shirt with the Aboriginal flag into the ring for a match at the London Games.

The IOC slammed the Australian Olympic Committee for his actions since the rules prohibit the use of flags that are not official country flags — and he later apologized.

In 2016, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head as he crossed the finish line — a gesture used by the Oromo people, who are have suffered mass killings at the hands of Ethiopian police, according to Human Rights Watch.

As the Olympics — scheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8 — near, many have their eye on what protests will look like following a recent racial reckoning in the U.S.

In a movement widely credited to beginning anew with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, athletes across several U.S. professional sports leagues have protested against social injustices and systemic racism.

Kaepernick and players from the WNBA, NBA, MLB and NHL have protested by taking a knee during the national anthem, staging team-wide strikes and wearing protest garb, including T-shirts emblazoned with “SAY HER NAME,” referring to Breonna Taylor.

Protests anticipated in Tokyo

Gwen Berry, a track and field athlete who turned away from the American flag at the U.S. Olympic Trials as the national anthem was played, already has received backlash for her silent protest on the podium.

“I never said that I hated the country,” Berry told Black News Channel in an interview. “All I said was, I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them.”

Berry considers herself an “activist athlete” and has made several peaceful demonstrations against systemic racism at competitions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke on President Joe Biden’s behalf, in support of her actions:

“I know [Biden] is incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents,” Psaki said. “He would also say that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and means respecting the right of people granted in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”

Several Republicans, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, have spoken out against Berry and other athletes who may protest at the Olympics.

“We don’t need any more activist athletes,” Crenshaw said on “Fox and Friends.” “She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America.”

Moore said that Black athletes have long been criticized and suppressed when it came to expressing their beliefs, and that he believes efforts to silence Berry just show how powerful her message is.

“She is officially the voice of this moment,” Moore said. “That’s the most powerful part about that is that a Black woman is holding court — she has the world’s attention.”

However, historians and sports analysts say that sports can be a tool for dialogue, and that athletes have been great forces in calling attention to issues of injustice and inequality.

“A lot of sports fans consider themselves apolitical and so they have to confront certain elements of society that they might not otherwise confront through sports,” Boykoff said. “Sports can be an important entry point for people to have conversations about politics that they’d otherwise never have.”

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Scoreboard roundup — 7/11/21

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(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Sunday’s sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

INTERLEAGUE
Philadelphia 5, Boston 4

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Toronto 3, Tampa Bay 1
Chi White Sox 7, Baltimore 5
Oakland 4, Texas 1
Houston 8, NY Yankees 7
Minnesota 12, Detroit 9
LA Angels 7, Seattle 1
Kansas City at Cleveland (Postponed)

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami 7, Atlanta 4
Pittsburgh 6, NY Mets 5
Cincinnati 3, Milwaukee 1
San Francisco 3, Washington 1
Colorado 3, San Diego 1
LA Dodgers 7, Arizona 4
St. Louis at Chi Cubs (Postponed)

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION PLAYOFFS
Milwaukee 120, Phoenix 100

WOMEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Las Vegas 95, Dallas 79
Connecticut 71, New York 54
Indiana 79, Atlanta 68
Seattle 82, Phoenix 75
Minnesota 86, Los Angeles 61

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Housekeeper’s tip leads to weapons cache at Denver hotel near MLB All-Star game venue

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(DENVER) — A tip from a housekeeper led police to uncover a large arsenal of weapons at a hotel in downtown Denver about a block from Coors Field, where Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is set to be played on Tuesday.

Three men and a woman were arrested and 16 long guns, body armor and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were seized from two rooms at the Maven Hotel in downtown Denver.

The discovery initially prompted police to suspect they had thwarted a possible mass shooting plot in the works. But on Sunday morning, FBI officials in Denver said a preliminary investigation has not turned up any evidence that the episode is tied to terrorism.

“We have no reason to believe this incident was connected to terrorism or a threat directed at the All-Star Game,” the FBI Denver field office said in a statement. “We are not aware of any threat to the All-Star Game events, venues, players, or the community at this time.”

The FBI said it is working closely with the Denver Police Department, the lead investigative agency of the incident, to get to the bottom of why the cache of weapons ended up at the hotel.

A preliminary assessment indicated the stash of guns appears to be connected to a possible illegal transaction involving drugs and guns, according to an internal law enforcement memo obtained by ABC News.

The four people arrested were identified by authorities as Richard Platt, 42, Gabriel Rodriguez, 48, Ricardo Rodriguez, 44, and Kanoelehua Serikawa, 43. The suspects, who are expected to appear in court on Sunday, were being held on suspicion of weapons charges and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, according to Denver police.

Gabriel and Ricardo Rodriguez were being held without bond. It is unknown at this time whether the suspects have lawyers.

SWAT teams and numerous other police officers converged on the Maven Hotel around 7:30 p.m. local time on Friday after a maid at the hotel saw a rifle in one of the rooms being cleaned and reported it.

Denver police said they spent several hours Friday searching rooms on the fourth and eighth floors of the Wazee Street hotel, where the weapons and ammunition were found. Illegal drugs were also found in the rooms, police said.

“The investigation and arrests were the result of a tip from the public, serving as an excellent example of the critical role the community plays in public safety,” Denver police said in a statement, adding that the agency encourages residents and visitors “to always be aware of their surroundings and to report suspicious or illegal activity to police immediately.”

The Sage Hospitality Group, which operates the hotel, praised the police and its own staff for the quick response.

“We are incredibly proud that our team swiftly alerted the authorities in this instance,” the Sage Hospitality Group said in a statement. “We are thankful to DPD for their quick action to safely resolve this situation and will continue to work closely with them to support their investigation.”

The incident came as thousands of baseball fans poured into Denver for festivities surrounding the All-Star Game, including the annual home run derby scheduled for Monday night.

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Magic hire Jamahl Mosely has head coach

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(ORLANDO) — The Orlando Magic have named Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosely head coach of the team, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman announced on Sunday. 

“We would like to welcome Jamahl and his family to the Magic family,” said Weltman. “Within the NBA coaching community, Jamahl is considered a rising star. His coaching path is rooted in player development. He is a communicator and connector, and we look forward to him leading our group.”

Mosley spent the past seven seasons with the Mavericks and served as the head coach for the Mavericks Las Vegas summer league team. 

Before the Mavericks, Mosley was an assistant for Cleveland for four years (2010-14) and worked for Denver for five years (2005-2010) with the last three as an assistant coach. 

The Milwaukee native played four years at the University of Colorado, before playing professionally oversea’s for four years. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Magic search ended with two finalists, Mosely and Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr. Unseld Jr. is a leading candidate for the Wizards job.

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Djokovic wins Wimbledon, record tying 20th grand slam

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(LONDON) – Top seed Novak Djokovic defeated seventh seed Matteo Berrettini in four sets – 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 – to win Wimbledon, becoming the first man to win the first three grand slams of the year since Rod Laver in 1969. 

It is Djokovic’s sixth Wimbledon title and his 20th grand slam title. The 20 titles ties Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most all-time. 

Djokovic can complete the calendar grand slam at the US Open in September. 

Tennis legend Billie Jean King congratulated Djokovic on Twitter. 

This is a developing story. Please refresh for the latest details. 

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Barty defeats Pliskova to win first Wimbledon, third overall Grand Slam

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(LONDON) — Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty defeated 7th-ranked Karolina Pliskova through three sets to capture her first Wimbledon title and her third overall Grand Slam win.

It was the first Wimbledon ladies’ final to go three sets since 2012. Barty won the match 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

Barty jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first set, before Pliskova was able to hold serve and make it 5-3. Barty closed out the set on her serve, winning it 6-3.

The second set was more evenly contested, with Pliskova battling  back to force a tie breaker, breaking Barty to make it 6-6. Pliskova won the tiebreaker 7-4 to win the set.

The third set mirrored the first, with Barty winning 3 straight games before Pliskova was able to hold. The Australian closed out the set on her serve to win the match.

Barty became the first Australian woman to win the singles tournament at the All England Club since Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Barty previously won the French Open as a singles player and the US Open in doubles with American CoCo Vandeweghe.

Pliskova is still seeking her first Grand Slam win, having lost in this final as well as the 2016 US Open final.

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Scoreboard roundup — 7/9

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(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Friday’s sports events:

INTERLEAGUE
Final  Boston  11  Philadelphia   5

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Final  Cleveland           2  Kansas City   1
Final  Chicago White Sox  12  Baltimore     1
Final  Tampa Bay           7  Toronto       1
Final  Minnesota           4  Detroit       2
Final  Texas               3  Oakland       2
Final  N.Y. Yankees        4  Houston       0
Final  Seattle             7  L.A. Angels   3

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Final  Chicago Cubs   10  St. Louis      5
Final  Atlanta         5  Miami          0
Final  N.Y. Mets      13  Pittsburgh     4
Final  Cincinnati      2  Milwaukee      0
Final  San Francisco   5  Washington     3
Final  San Diego       4  Colorado       2
Final  Arizona         5  L.A. Dodgers   2

WOMEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Final  Indiana      82  New York   69
Final  Connecticut  84  Atlanta    72
Final  Phoenix      85  Seattle    77
Final  Minnesota    77  Las Vegas  67
 
 MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
 Final tie  Columbus   2  Cincinnati   2

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Allyson Felix and Athleta team up to cover childcare costs for athlete moms

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(NEW YORK) — Allyson Felix is the most decorated athlete in the world and she’s on the brink of striking more gold at this year’s Olympics.

In addition to being the all-star athlete that she is, she’s also a devoted mom who’s passionate about empowering other fellow women athletes.

Aligning with that passion, Felix has teamed up with apparel company Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) to launch The Power of She Fund: Child Care Grants.

This new $200,000 grant program has made a commitment to cover childcare costs for professional mom-athletes traveling to competitions.

The first group of recipients, including six that are also headed to the Tokyo Olympics, will receive $10,000 each.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the families of Olympic athletes, unfortunately, won’t be able to travel to Tokyo. Only nursing children will be allowed to join their moms for the upcoming games.

The Power of She Fund: Child Care Grants is aiming to help provide resources to empower mom-athletes to compete without limitations.

“This is going to make a huge difference in their lives,” Felix told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “Childcare is one of the huge barriers that we have to overcome.”

She continued, “I really do hope also that this spurs an industry-wide change, and we look to support women holistically.”

While this won’t be Felix’s first time at the Olympics, it will be her first time competing as a mom to her 2-year-old daughter Camryn.

“As a mom and an athlete, I know firsthand the obstacles women face in sports,” said the six-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion in a statement.

She added, “It was important to me and to Athleta that our partnership reflects that I am more than just an athlete. In fact, part of my contract includes provisions for my daughter, Camryn, to join me whenever I am competing. But not everyone has access to this type of support from a partner or sponsor. These grants are about showing the industry that all mom-athletes need this same comprehensive support to be able to participate in their athletic endeavors.”

One of this year’s grant recipients, sitting volleyball player Lora Webster, who is a mother of three — ages 10, 8 and 5 — shared in a statement that she doesn’t have family nearby to help with child care. She said a lot of her training happens at home with her kids.
 
“There have been many instances where we simply can’t justify the cost of a babysitter on top of the cost of the gym and training site, so my training falls by the wayside,” she said.

Webster added, “This money has given us such a big breath of relief in the past few weeks.”

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Simone Biles opens up about depression she suffered after being sexually abused

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(NEW YORK) — Simone Biles opened up about the depression she suffered after being sexually abused.

In the latest installment of the Facebook Watch docuseries “Simone vs Herself,” Biles said that for a period of time, she struggled to cope.

“I was so depressed,” she said. “I slept all the time, and it’s basically because sleeping was basically better than offing myself. It was like my way to escape reality. And sleeping was the closest thing to death for me at that point, so I just slept all the time.”

In 2018, Dr. Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting hundreds of girls and women. During the trial, 156 women and girls provided victim impact statements, including Olympic gymnastic stars Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Jamie Dantzscher.

For some time, Biles said she was in denial about what happened and refused to discuss it. However, one day, when she was driving on a highway in Texas, she said, she finally was able to tell her mother that she, too, had been abused. She went public with her story in January, 2018.

“I just remember breaking down and calling my mom,” she recalled. “She told me to pull over. She was like, ‘Can you drive?’ because I was crying so hard.”

Nellie Biles added, “She was just hysterical. She didn’t say anything, she just cried, and we just cried together because I knew. … She didn’t have to say anything.”

Previously, Biles said in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America that she takes medication and goes to therapy to treat her anxiety. In “Simone vs. Herself,” she explained that she takes recovery “day by day.”

“With gymnasts, if you get injured … your ‘heal time’ is four to six weeks. But then with something so traumatic that happens like this, there’s no four to six weeks,” she said. “There’s like actually no time limit or healing time for it.”

“It’s OK to say ‘I need help,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she added.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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Natural hair swim caps rejection sparks conversation on coded bias, gatekeeping and representation

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(NEW YORK) — A rejection to allow swim caps made for natural hair in the Olympics has started a larger conversation on bias, gatekeeping and representation in the sport.

Soul Cap, a U.K.-based company that sells swimming caps for “thick, curly and voluminous hair,” had submitted its product to the International Swimming Federation (FINA) for approval last year so that athletes with these types of hair could use them while participating in the Tokyo Olympics.

FINA subsequently denied the request, as well as the company’s appeal this past June, Soul Cap confirmed to ABC News’ Good Morning America, saying that the caps don’t follow “the natural form of the head” and to its “best knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.”

After receiving backlash for the decision, the watersports governing body released a statement on July 2, saying that it’s “currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”

However, many people say the damage has already been done.

‘Beyond the cap’

Soul Cap founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed told GMA the decision represented an extension of the cultural barriers people of color face in different areas of life.

“It’s another barrier which predominantly impacts Black people, and predominantly women with longer or thicker hair,” they said in a joint statement.

Diversity in Aquatics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the disparity among historically underrepresented populations in aquatic activities, called FINA’s explanation for rejecting the swim caps a “coded policy.”

“Coded policies substitute terms describing racial identity with seemingly race-neutral terms that disguise explicit and/or implicit racial prejudice,” the nonprofit said.

Maritza McClendon, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and the first African American woman to join a U.S. Olympic swim team, says that the decision goes “beyond the cap.”

“The undertone behind what their decision was speaks beyond the cap,” McClendon told GMA. “You’re basically saying that Black swimmers aren’t at the elite level and they don’t really need a cap that works best for them.”

McClendon also criticized FINA’s latest statement promising to review its decision. The organization said, “There’s no restriction on ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes.” McClendon says this section points to a form of gatekeeping.

“So you can use it recreationally and at other competitions but just not at a FINA-sanctioned meet, which happens to be the Olympics, which happens to be the ultimate goal for most competitive swimmers at that level,” she said.

“This is discrimination,” Noelle Ndiaye, swim coach and founder of Afro Swimmers, told GMA. “There’s no competitive advantage to wearing a larger swim cap except to build confidence in the water.”

The language FINA used, Ndiaye said, is an example of the “disconnect between the competitive swim world, the white swim world and the Black swim world.”

She noted that the swim caps made by Soul Cap and other similar companies have been circulating through the Black community for some time now.

“So when FINA first made their decision that these caps weren’t necessary, that’s why people were so confused because what do you mean they’re not necessary? We’ve been purchasing these. We’ve been using these,” Ndiaye said.

FINA did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News about the decision.

A history of barriers

Disparities in swimming are not new. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, 65% of Black children have none or low swimming ability in 2017, compared to 45% of Latino children and 40% of white children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that drowning death rates for Black people are 1.5 times higher than the rates for white people. The disparity is highest among Black children; those ages 5 to 9 faced a 2.6 times higher risk of drowning compared to white children while those ages 10 to 14 faced a 3.6 times higher risk.

The reason for this gap is due to a number of barriers Black people have faced and continue to face with swimming, McClendon said.

“There’s access, there’s costs, there’s a generational trauma,” McClendon said. “Our parents and grandparents went through segregation and they never were afforded the ability to have access to a pool, so why would you think to take your kids to a pool and learn how to swim?”

Then there are the differences in hair and skin, McClendon said. For a long time, the only swim caps available were made in a single size and made of constrictive latex or silicone.

“One size has never fit all,” Ndiaye said, adding that in high school she suffered from frequent headaches and lightheadedness due to the tightness of her swim caps.

FINA’s decision only further isolates people of color from a sport that has been predominantly white, said McClendon. Before companies like Soul Cap, Swimma and Swimmie Caps broke into the scene with caps that vary in size and material, swimmers had to choose between the sport and being their authentic selves.

“My hair would break from the material of the cap so the bottom back of my hair was always short because it would just never grow — it was constantly being tugged at by these caps,” McClendon said.

Rather than feeling uncomfortable and trying to fit all of her curls into the cap, McClendon cut her hair before her Olympic trials in 2004.

“That was mainly because I didn’t have any other options,” she said. “The only cap that I had was the one that was ‘approved.'”

Calls for governing bodies to do better

The Black swim community is now calling for a change in light of FINA’s decision.

The ban is indicative of a larger problem surrounding representation in competitive sports, both in leadership and athletes, swimmers say. According to Soul Caps’ founders, the rules have been based on FINA’s “view of who a ‘typical’ competitive swimmer is and looks like.”

“If there was more diversity of decision-makers in the governing body, it would provide a greater breadth of knowledge and give an opportunity for issues which affect minorities to be recognized,” Chapman and Ahmed said in their joint statement. “We think it would really help to make positive change.”

In addition to being inclusive, organizations need to be more empathetic and listen, said Brooke DeVard, host of the “Naked Beauty” podcast.

She said that FINA’s decision “sends a message that a lot of the decision-makers at the very top of the sport aren’t being empathetic to the diverse needs of different types of swimmers” and that they have “categorically ignored an entire group of people and their needs.”

“It really showed a lack of empathy,” DeVard added.

This lack of representation is why athletes like McClendon are actively working with organizations to increase Black participation in swimming. USA Swimming reported in February 2020 that with a membership of over 300,000 athletes, less than 2% are Black.

Out of 26 women on USA Swimming who are headed to the Tokyo Olympics, only two are Black. In the U.K., where Soul Cap is based, Alice Dearing will be the first Black woman to ever represent the nation in Olympics swimming.

“We’re trying to bridge that gap,” McClendon said. “People are coming up with solutions but the problem is that we’re still being met by barriers and people standing in the way of progress.”

Leaving the choice in the hands of the swimmers is another thing organizations can do to support their athletes better, Ndiaye says.

“This should be the choice of the swimmer and their coach,” Ndiaye said. “It should not be up to a governing body of what a person should wear in the pool to feel comfortable in their own skin.”

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