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U.S. Olympic Committee Will Allow Athletes To Kneel In Protest, Raise Fists

Colorado Springs, CO – The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced Thursday that it won’t sanction athletes who raise a fist or take a knee on the medal stand at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

USOPC said on Dec. 10 that it agreed with the calls from American athletes that asked the committee to change the rule prohibiting inside-the-lines protests at the Olympic Games, according to ESPN.

The provision known as Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter has been under scrutiny and International Olympic Committee (IOC) has told its athlete commission to explore other options, according to The Washington Post.

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.

USOPC said it acted on recommendations from the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice, a group of U.S. athletes and Olympic stakeholders calling for the USOPC and IOC to permit athletes to protest in the upcoming games, The Washington Post reported.

“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 Council on Racial and Social Justice said the statement, according to ESPN.

USOPC was widely criticized for reprimanding a pair of U.S. athletes who protested at the Pan American Games in August of 2019.

U.S. fencer Race Imboden was put on probation after he took a knee at the Pan-Am Games during the medal ceremony while The Star Spangled Banner was playing, The Washington Post reported.

Imboden said he took a knee to protest racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and President Donald Trump.

U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry was also put on probation for a raised fist near the end of the National Anthem and cited the same reasons as Imboden, according to the Washington Post.

“It is clear now that this organization should have supported instead of condemned, and advocated for understanding instead of relying on previous precedent,” USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter to U.S. athletes. “For that, I apologize, and look forward to a future where rules are clear, intentions are better understood, and voices are empowered.”

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Written by
Tom Gantert

Tom Gantert graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Tom started in the newspaper business in 1983. He has worked at the Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan), Lansing State Journal (Michigan), Ann Arbor News (Michigan), Vineland Daily-Journal (Michigan), North Hills News Record (Pennsylvania) and USA Today (Virginia). He is also currently the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Tom is the father of a Michigan State Police trooper.

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