World soccer’s governing body FIFA has asked competition organisers to use “common sense” with players who show messages of protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody in the United States.
The move, which marks a change from a previous strong line against players displaying messages on the field, came as athletes and sports figures around the world made their views on the situation in the United States clear.
FIFA regulations bar players from displaying any “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on their kit. Since 2014, this ban has included undershirts – a response to players lifting up their shirts to display a message after scoring a goal.
But several players protested during matches in Germany’s Bundesliga at the weekend, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi displaying undershirts with the message, “Justice for George Floyd” on Sunday.
The German Football Association (DFB) has said it was reviewing the incidents.
England international Sancho was shown a yellow card after removing his shirt but the DFB said it was not due to his message but because he broke the rules on removing shirts.
In a statement on Tuesday, FIFA said it “fully understands the depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many footballers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case”.
It added that applying the laws of the game was the responsibility of competition organisers, such as domestic leagues, who FIFA said “should use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events”.
“FIFA had repeatedly expressed itself to be resolutely against racism and discrimination of any kind…FIFA itself has promoted many anti-racism campaigns which frequently carry the anti-racism message at matches organised under its own auspices,” they said.
On Tuesday, Newcastle United players posed taking a knee, in the style of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who popularised the gesture as a way to protest racial issues. Liverpool players had done the same on Monday and several players made statements on social media.
Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy has urged cricket’s global governing body and its member nations to speak out against social injustice.
“@ICC and all the other boards are you guys not seeing what’s happening to ppl like me? Are you not gonna speak against the social injustice against my kind…” Sammy said in a series of tweets.
“Now is not the time to be silent. I wanna hear u,” the St Lucia all-rounder, who led West Indies to Twenty20 World Cup titles in 2012 and 2016, said.
His former team mate Chris Gayle also posted a statement on social media, saying “Black life matters just as any other life!”
Gayle said he had experienced racist abuse himself during the course of his long career.
“Even within teams as a Black man I get the end of the stick,” he said.
The England and Wales Cricket Board tweeted a photo of wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, spinner Adil Rashid and their Barbados-born quick Jofra Archer with the message: “We stand for diversity, We stand against racism.”
Formula One drivers followed Lewis Hamilton’s lead on Monday after he criticised those in what he called the “white dominated sport” for failing to speak out about Floyd’s death.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc said on Twitter he had felt “out of place and uncomfortable” sharing his thoughts on social media about the situation but realised he had been “completely wrong”.