"We want to fight all forms of discrimination and as a group of women we wanted to kneel against it," Great Britain team captain Steph Houghton said on Wednesday

By Jason Duaine Hahn
July 21, 2021 03:05 PM
soccer players kneel
Credit: Dan Mullan/Getty

It didn't take long for athletes competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics to make a statement in support of social justice and racial equality.

On Wednesday, players from New Zealand's women's soccer team knelt on the field before they faced Australia, whose members held up an Indigenous flag ahead of their game, the Associated Press reported.

The two teams were joined by women's players from the United States, Chile, Great Britain and Sweden, who took part in their own demonstrations earlier in the day. American and Swedish players kneeled before their game, which Sweden won 3-0.

"For us, it really feels right to stand up for human rights," Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt said after the game, 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."

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on the Olympics.

The sentiment was shared by players from Great Britain, who wanted to show a united front in the fight for equality.

soccer players kneel
soccer players kneel
Right: Credit: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty

"Taking the knee was something we spoke about as a group. We feel so strongly and we want to show we're united," captain Steph Houghton said of the team, which beat Chile 2-0 to start the Tokyo Olympics.

"We want to fight all forms of discrimination and as a group of women we wanted to kneel against it," she added. "It was a proud moment because the Chile players took the knee too to show how united we are as [a] sport."

According to the AP, the Chilean players were unaware of Britain's plans, but took part in kneeling once the demonstration began.

Kneeling has become a powerful display of protest in recent years, particularly after George Floyd's murder in 2020. The act was initially sparked by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the U.S. national anthem as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

RELATED VIDEO: Gymnast Jordan Chiles' Mom Opens Up About Reporting to Prison on the Day of Women's Team Olympic Final

While kneeling is permitted by the International Olympics Committee, it's only allowed before or after games, according to guidelines. The organization has barred demonstrations from taking place on the podium, but said athletes can "express their views" when speaking with reporters and on social media.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23 and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning Aug. 24 on NBC.