All 22 players on the U.S. women’s soccer team took a knee in protest against racism before their first game in the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday before suffering a shocking 3-0 loss to Sweden. The upset cost the Team USA soccer players a 44-game winning streak.
The women’s soccer team was ranked number one in the world heading into the match against Sweden, which was ranked fifth, NCB K5 reported.
“FINAL | Not the start we wanted but plenty of tournament to play. We go again on Saturday,” Team USA women’s soccer tweeted after the match.
Other teams also knelt prior to kickoff of their Olympic openers this week as part of pre-planned demonstrations permitted under the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) newly relaxed restrictions.
“For us it really feels right to stand up for human rights,” Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt told reporters after her team’s win, according to Reuters. “It was a communication with the U.S. team before, so for us it feels good to do that and it is something we stand for as a team.”
Team Great Britain captain Steph Houghton echoed Ilestedt, saying her team also felt strongly about demonstrating.
“Taking the knee was something we spoke about as a group. We feel so strongly and we want to show we’re united,” she said. “We want to fight all forms of discrimination and as a group of women we wanted to kneel against it. “It was a proud moment because the Chile players took the knee too to show how united we are as sport.”
According to the IOC, protests must follow several guidelines at the Games, including being “consistent with the Fundamental Principles of Olympism,” they must not directly or indirectly target people, countries or organizations “and/or their dignity” and must not be disruptive.
“When expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes,” the guidelines state. “It should be recognized that any behavior and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence on any basis whatsoever is contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.”
Team USA Olympic athletes were also making headlines for their protests before the Games began. In late June, a U.S. olympian hammer thrower turned her back on the American flag during the national anthem while standing on the podium as she received the bronze medal at the Olympic trials on Saturday. She later said, “the anthem doesn’t speak for me.”