Commonwealth Games open to athletes taking a knee

Commonwealth Games
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The Commonwealth Games, the biggest summer multi-sport competition outside of the Olympics (that doesn’t include the United States), could allow athlete activism, such as taking a knee, at its next edition in 2022 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Commonwealth Games CEO David Grevemberg was asked Thursday if an athlete who kneels two years from now would be punished.

He did not directly answer yes or no, but he cited “the profound impact” of sprinter Cathy Freeman, who carried the Australian and Aboriginal flags when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 in Victoria, British Columbia.

Freeman, of Aboriginal descent, did the same as the face of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, bringing attention to the nation’s indigenous people.

“How do we get that balance right, what that means, and how can we work with athletes to ensure that their platform and their voice is heard?” Grevemberg said. “What that looks like on the field of play, I would say right now I wouldn’t want to be presumptuous in terms of going through that consultation, what athletes want, what are we able to accomplish, but I do think we are in a very, very unique place in the world right now, and I think there are some unique opportunities to really expand our views on this. I would have to say I think that conversation is critical. We need to find solutions, not build walls, but build bridges right now.”

The Commonwealth Games include athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, notably Australia, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa and those that make up Great Britain at the Olympics — England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland (whose athletes can represent Great Britain or Ireland at the Olympics). Most of the sports are also in the Olympics, but some are not, such as lawn bowls.

On Wednesday, IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC Athletes’ Commission will talk with athletes around the world to explore how Olympians can express themselves at the Games while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

Grevemberg also emphasized discussion.

“We are comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation,” he said. “We need to embrace that.

“I think the Black Lives Matter movement is actually challenging all institutions to really look introspectively at what we can do to be more fair, more free, have better equality.

“It’s been something that we had a lot of questions on in terms of why are you politicizing sport? Actually, we’re humanizing the conversation. We’re giving people the opportunity to express freedom of expression, freedom of association, but we also have some very strong policies on non-discrimination and respect and so forth. People say, ‘Aren’t you opening up the Pandora’s box, the floodgates?’ No, we are respecting people’s rights to voice their opinions and so forth.”

Two Olympics — in Tokyo in 2021 and Beijing in 2022 — will take place before the next Commonwealth Games.

“I don’t want us to be too prescriptive at this point in time because this is a real moving dialogue,” Grevemberg said. “I think it would be too presumptuous of me to say this is how it’s going to look.”

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MORE: Allyson Felix details participating in Black Lives Matter protest

NFL star Jared Allen’s team beats Olympic champions at curling nationals

Jared Allen
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Retired NFL star Jared Allen was part of a curling team that beat 2018 Olympic champion John Shuster to open the U.S. Championships in Denver on Sunday night.

Allen, who retired from the NFL in 2016 and picked up curling in 2018, is on 2010 Olympian Jason Smith‘s team, which beat Shuster’s team 10-6 in the first game of round-robin play.

After all eight teams play each other, the top four advance to Friday’s playoffs. The winner of Saturday’s final is national champion and is expected to be the U.S. team for the world championship in Ottawa in April.

Allen, 40, said before nationals that he is eyeing the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” Allen, who was on a different team at the last nationals in 2021 that went 0-9, told the newspaper. “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through. Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”

How big of an upset was Sunday’s result? Ken Pomeroy rated Smith’s team fifth in the eight-team field before the tournament, while he had Shuster’s team second behind Korey Dropkin.

Shuster’s team won the last three nationals that they entered, plus the last two Olympic Trials since the bulk of the team formed for the 2015 season. Shuster went 11-0 at his last nationals in 2020, then 11-2 at the 2022 Olympic Trials, where the younger Dropkin beat him twice but ultimately lost in the finals series.

Allen was first linked to serious curling in February 2018 via U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne on a Minnesota ESPN radio show. Nanne said Allen told him at a dinner.

“[Allen] says, ‘I’m giving myself four years to make the Olympic curling team,’” said Nanne, a 1968 U.S. Olympian.

Allen, along with retired quarterback Marc Bulger, first played on a team with 2010 Olympian John Benton and fellow veteran curler Hunter Clawson.

Allen’s new team includes Smith, who played on the 2010 Olympic team skipped by Shuster, Clawson and Dominik Maerki.

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U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit