Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

The five most bizarre protests in sporting history

Posted on 29 August 2020 by Sarah Glenton
Featured image credit: Pascal Lauener/Reuters

Four years and two days have passed since Colin Kaepernick was photographed sitting for the US National Anthem ahead of a San Francisco 49ers pre-season game.

Kaepernick went on to take the knee a few days later, an action that has become a symbol of protest against racial injustice across all sport.

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However, not all sporting protests are as deep or effective as this. From controversial penalty decisions in Vietnam to track invaders at the British Grand Prix, the Sports Gazette has put together a list of five of the most bizarre protests to ever happen in sport.

Tennis ball protest at Swiss Super League match

In November 2010, FC Luzern and Basel fans joined together to stage a protest at their Saturday afternoon match being moved from 3pm to 12:45pm.

The decision to bring the match forward was made by Swiss TV, who wanted to broadcast both the football and the ATP Basel tournament match between Swiss native Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Luzern and Basel supporters were quick to show their anger by launching thousands of tennis balls at the pitch, forcing the players to return to their dressing rooms and thus delaying the match.

Farmers’ protest at Indian Cricket League match

Following a ban from the Indian Premier League (IPL) for allegations of illegal gambling, Chennai Super Kings played their first home match in almost three years on 10th April 2018. Unfortunately, the match made headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

A years-long dispute between residents of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states over access to the Cauvery River culminated in protesters blocking the entrance to the Super Kings’ stadium before the match, while others threw shoes at players and released black balloons into the sky.

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Police couldn’t control the protesters, and the Super Kings’ six remaining home matches were moved to Pune, almost 600 miles away.

Track invasion at the 2003 British Grand Prix

On the 11th lap of the 2003 British Grand Prix, Catholic Priest Neil Horan ran onto the track wearing an orange kilt, and holding a banner which said “Read the Bible. The Bible is always right,”.

The incident forced the safety car to be deployed, and the track invader was tackled and removed by a track marshal.

Horan claimed he was trying to bring attention to an imminent apocalypse, and was sentenced to two years in prison for aggravated trespass. He later went on to pull a similar stunt during the men’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and received an ASBO preventing him from entering any of the boroughs being used for the London Marathon in 2007.

Armagh Gaelic footballers play match in jeans

Armagh side Dromintee fielded several players wearing jeans in their match against Crossmaglen Rangers in September 2014.

The bizarre move came after Dromintee’s efforts to postpone the match failed, with some of their key players unable to play the match due to attending a teammate’s wedding.

Failure to play the match would have resulted in a 48-week suspension for Dromintee, and as Gaelic football is amateur, the club decided it was better to show their displeasure in another fashion.

Vietnamese football team try the Mannequin Challenge – on the pitch

Long An goalkeeper Nguyen Minh Nhut was banned from football for two years in February 2017 for leading a protest against refereeing decisions.

The team had walked off the pitch at 2-2 after a penalty was awarded to opponents Ho Chi Minh City, but soon returned, and stood still as the penalty was taken and scored.

This strange protest continued for the rest of the match, and Ho Chi Minh scored another two goals, winning 5-2.