Lausanne, SWITZERLAND – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) upheld its established Rule 50 and said athlete protests and political messages will be banned from fields of play, medal podiums, and the opening and closing ceremonies at the Tokyo games this summer.
The IOC further said the slogan “Black Lives Matter” would could not be worn by athletes at Olympic venues, the Associated Press reported.
However, the committee decided the words “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion,” and “equality” could be worn on shirts.
The IOC said that a survey it conducted of more than 3,500 athletes showed 70 percent felt that it was “not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views” on the field of play or at the official events, the Associated Press reported.
Disciplinary action will be meted out on a case-by-case basis after the offense has been evaluated by the IOC, the athlete’s respected National Olympic Committee, and the International Federation.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced on Dec. 10, 2020 that it wouldn’t sanction athletes who raised a fist or took a knee on the medal podium at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
USOPC said it agreed with the calls from American athletes that asked the committee to change the rule prohibiting inside-the-lines protests, according to ESPN.
But regardless of the U.S. committee’s opinion, Rule 50 applies to all of the athletes.
Rule 50 was what led to U.S. Olympic medal sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos being kicked out of the 1968 Olympics for making Black Power salutes with gloved fists in the air on the podium.
The IOC said the athletes in Tokyo may not display signs or wear armbands, make hand gestures or kneel, or refuse to follow any of the protocol affiliated with the official ceremonies, the Associated Press reported.
The IOC said athletes may express their political during press conferences and interviews in the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) or the Main Media Centre (MMC) but protests and demonstrations are banned in the Olympic Village.
They are also permitted to express political opinions on traditional, digital, and social media platforms, the Associated Press reported.
Athletes are encouraged to share their views during team meetings, too.
The IOC warned that athletes must restrict their activities to what is permissible under the local law in the host country, the Associated Press reported.
The guidelines and limitations imposed on the Olympic athletes under Rule 50 also apply to trainers, coaches, officials, and any other accredited person at the games.
“In conclusion, these guidelines have been developed with the aim that each and every one of you can enjoy the experience of the Olympic Games without any divisive disruption,” the IOC state in a statement on the Rule 50 guidelines.
Numerous groups have come forward and volunteered to defend any athlete facing discipline for expressing their political opinion, the KXAN reported.
“Any athlete sanctioned at the Tokyo Olympics will have the full backing of the World Players,” World Player’s Association Executive Director Brendan Schwab said.
Former two-time U.S. Olympian Noah Hoffman encouraged athletes to make their voices heard, according to KXAN.
Hoffman is heavily involved with the group Global Athlete which released a statement telling athletes to “not allow outdated ‘sports rules’ to supersede your basic human rights.”
“We envision an Olympics where the athletes are the center of the show, more than the host country or the politics around it or the sponsors,” Hoffman said. “It is this huge spectacle where the athletes are an afterthought.”
The U.S. Olympic committee has agreed.
“Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values,” the USOPCs Council on Racial and Social Justice said in an earlier statement, according to ESPN.