'We won’t tolerate': Sports world unites behind Floyd

In this Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 file photo, Tokmac Nguen of Ferencvaros in action during the soccer Europa League Group H fifth round soccer match Ferencvaros vs. Espanyol at the Groupama Arena in Budapest, Hungary. (AP)
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Updated 02 June 2020

'We won’t tolerate': Sports world unites behind Floyd

Players who scored in the German and Hungarian football leagues removed their jerseys to display undershirts with the words: “Justice for George Floyd.”
Others from English football clubs Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle dropped to one knee during practice in a clear gesture of support.
In New Zealand, a Nigerian-born UFC fighter addressed a crowd of 4,000, imploring those listening to “speak up” and take peaceful action to register their discontent.
Dismayed by the death of Floyd and inspired by the actions of Colin Kaepernick, athletes from around the world have come together during one of the most politically charged periods in modern history.
“I can’t tolerate. I won’t tolerate. WE WON’T TOLERATE,” Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, one of the world’s most famous soccer players and a World Cup champion with France, wrote on his Instagram page to his 41 million followers alongside a picture of him looking to the sky with a clenched right fist.
It was powerful image to accompany the picture of 29 Liverpool players kneeling around the center circle at Anfield Stadium at the end of a practice session on Monday. Or the entire Chelsea squad kneeling down and forming the letter “H” — for humans — during training on Tuesday.
Their actions mimicked the one made by Kaepernick during the national anthem in 2016 in silent protest of police brutality and racism while then playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
Kaepernick’s gesture kicked off a period of pregame activism in the NFL and other sports but it didn’t gain a strong hold worldwide.
Not like the killing of Floyd, a black man and former community college basketball player who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and stopped pleading for air.
“It hit a nerve in this very particular time, which I think made people all around the world reflect on the environment we live, not only in the US but in all kinds of places where there is a perpetuation of discrimination and inequality,” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, secretary general of global football players union FIFPro, told The Associated Press.
“We’re seeing a generation of players right now moving into the steps of athletes in the past who were socially quite engaged and willing to put themselves behind causes they care about. I think it’s incredibly empowering to see these players step forward and share in that fight for a better society.”
Things have escalated so much that FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, took the rare step of urging competition organizers to consider not sanctioning players who support justice for Floyd during matches. The laws of the game prohibit “any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images.”
“The application of the laws of the game … should use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events,” FIFA said, acknowledging “the depth of sentiment” regarding Floyd’s death.
English football leaders have already said players will be able to show solidarity without the prospect of facing sanctions when games resume this month after a three-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Emboldened football players appear to be more confident in speaking out about racism than ever before, including Jadon Sancho, who revealed a handwritten “Justice for George Floyd” message on his undershirt after scoring a goal for Borussia Dortmund on Sunday, openly and knowingly flouting the rules.
Marcus Rashford, a black striker for Manchester United, called for justice for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor — two other black people killed in shooting incidents in America this year — on Twitter in the wake of Floyd’s death.
Football players may also take what has happened to Floyd more personally because of how often black players have been abused inside stadiums around Europe in recent years. The sanctions for racism — if they are handed out at all — can often be derisory.
As their own form of protest, some black players have taken to walking off the field after being racially abused by fans because many have little faith in authorities and governing bodies to effect change.
That’s the position many protesters in the United States are finding themselves in.
Baer-Hoffman said the reaction of sports stars was a reflection of uncertain times around the world since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Maybe it’s because we are living in a time where the interconnectedness of people through the pandemic has become more conscious to us all,” he said.
“When you look at the images (of the incident involving Floyd), it is manifestly disturbing. It scares you and forces you to think … I think it stands for something much greater. For footballers in this context, they are people ... They are speaking out and, of course, have a bigger platform than most.”
When Kaepernick took a knee four years ago, United States star Megan Rapinoe was one of the few high-profile soccer players to champion his cause publicly. But the clear parallel between Kaepernick’s action and the knee of the police officer on Floyd’s neck has roused more athletes to speak out.
“In no way are we asking black lives to matter more than white lives,” DeAndre Yedlin, a US soccer international who plays with Newcastle in England, wrote on Twitter.
“All we’re asking is we are seen as equal, as more than 3/5 of a man, as humans. My heart goes out in solidarity to George Floyd, his family, and all of the countless number of victims that have had their lives taken at the hands of meaningless police brutality.”

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F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, were missed.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.