Those incidents, experts say, show how sports policies don’t necessarily take into account athletes of color and the dehumanization that Black women and girls experience.
But those can impact people differently depending on their race and gender, Martin says, like in the case of the swim caps.
Swim caps designed for natural Black hair not allowed
Soul Cap founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed Salawudeen had said their headwear plays a vital role in promoting racial diversity in competitive swimming and FINA’s rejection would discourage younger athletes from pursuing the sport.
Specific biology is keeping some out of races
Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi became the latest Black women athletes ruled ineligible to compete in a race at the Tokyo Olympics due to naturally high testosterone levels.
The 18-year-old Namibian sprinters were tested during a medical assessment and their levels exceeded the limit by a World Athletics’ policy on Athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), according to the he Namibia National Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association (NNOC-CGA).
The global governing body requires that female athletes’ blood testosterone levels be under 5 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) to compete in select women’s events, including the 400m.
The committee said that neither of the athletes, nor their families, coaches or the Namibia National Olympic Committee were aware of their condition prior to testing. Mboma and Masilingi will still be able to compete in 100m and 200m events.
The double Olympic 800m champion is hyperandrogenous — meaning she has naturally high levels of the male sex hormone. Semenya has refused to take any medication to alter her testosterone levels and has challenged the World Athletics ruling.
For Martin, the sociologist, those type of policies show that some people’s ideas about womanhood continue excluding groups of people and the need for more Black individuals in sports leadership.
“We tend to center whiteness. We don’t necessarily think about how the rules that we might implement impact other groups because we’re thinking about whiteness and White people being the norm,” Martin said.
They are criticized for their activism
After qualifying for her second Games, Berry turned away from the flag while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played during the medal ceremony and draped a T-shirt with words “activist athlete” over her head. Berry has said she had been told the anthem would be played before.
Rule 50 states that: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The Rule strives to ensure that the focus at the Olympic Games remains on athletes’ performances, sport, unity and universality, according to the IOC.
“It depends on how I’m feeling. It depends on what I want to do in that moment, and what I want to do for my people in that moment,” Berry said.
“And I will do whatever comes upon me and whatever is in my heart,” she added.