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DENISE LEWIS says athletes “taking a knee” at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham should be down to individual choice.
The Commonwealth Games Federation joined a growing list of sports bodies last month allowing athletes to protest against racism without fear of repercussion.
Premier League footballers and England and West Indies cricketers have been among the sportsmen in recent weeks to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of white police officers in the United States in May.
Athletes from more than 70 nations and territories, many of them from Africa and the Caribbean, will be competing at Birmingham 2022 and CGF chief executive David Grevemberg said the conversation around racism had to be “embraced.”
“The whole point of the [Black Lives Matter] movement and taking the knee is very much individual and subjective to the athletes that are competing,” the 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion and double Commonwealth Games gold medallist said.
“I’m sure there are athletes that will absolutely want to do that and there’ll be some that won’t.
“But what we are trying to get to is a playing field that is tolerant and accepting of people’s desires and needs.
“I personally don’t have a problem with it, athletes will choose to do what they want, and it’s great that the Federation is tolerant of that.
“If you’ve been watching sport over the last few weeks there’s a real need to represent the people who take part. It brings together any denomination — whatever ethnicity, sexual preference an athlete may be.
“It’s a chance to educate our young people and that is the issue for me.
“I’m a big champion of talking about Britain’s colonial past but the important thing is not hiding it away and giving a true account of history.
“I call it instead of ‘whitewashing’ the truth, just talk about it. Educate and look for commonality in people, not just the differences.”
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