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AP: Olympics ban apparel with slogans like ‘Black Lives Matter’, could punish athletes for political demonstrations

Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in Kenosha, WS by a police officer. Members of...
Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in Kenosha, WS by a police officer. Members of Black Lives Matter Mississippi say it’s time to break the silence on these types of incidents.(Branden Walker)
Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 4:42 PM CDT
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(AP/WBTV) - The IOC says athlete protests and political messages will remain banned at the Olympics after a survey found that a majority of competitors were in favor of keeping the ban in place.

That means raising a fist on the podium or taking a knee would still risk punishment at the Tokyo Games this year.

According to Graham Dunbar of The Associated Press, the IOC also said that slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” will not be allowed on athlete apparel at Olympic venues, though it approved using the words “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality” on T-shirts.

The IOC said it surveyed more than 3,500 athletes over the past year and that 70% said it was “not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views” on the field of play or at the opening or closing ceremony.

The IOC says any instance of breaking the rules will be evaluated by an athlete’s respective National Olympic Committee, International Federation and the IOC, and disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis as necessary.

The Olympic body’s legal commission should clarify what kind of punishment before this year’s games, which open on July 23.

Athletes who make political or social justice protests at the Tokyo Olympics have been promised legal support by a global union and an activist group in Germany.

The pledges by the World Players Association and Athleten Deutschland came one day after the IOC confirmed its long-standing ban on “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda.”

Rule 50 applies to the field of play, medal podiums and opening and closing ceremonies. Raising a fist or kneeling for a national anthem could lead to punishment from the IOC.

Under Rule 50, protests and demonstrations are banned at all Olympic venues including on the field of play, in the Olympic Village, during Olympic medal ceremonies and during the opening, closing and other official ceremonies.

The IOC says Any protest or demonstration outside Olympic venues must comply with local legislation wherever local law forbids such actions.

During the Olympic Games, athletes have the opportunity to express their views in these situations:

  • During press conferences and interviews, i.e. in the mixed zones, in the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) or the Main Media Centre (MMC)
  • At team meetings
  • On digital or traditional media, or on other platforms.

The IOC says It should be noted that expressing views is different from protests and demonstrations. It should be noted, too, that these guidelines are also applicable to any other accredited person (trainers, coaches, officials, etc.).

Here are some examples of what would constitute a protest, as opposed to expressing views (nonexhaustive list):

  • Displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands
  • Gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling
  • Refusal to follow the ceremonies protocol.

What happens if an athlete or participant fails to respect these policies?

If an athlete or participant is in breach of Rule 50 and the Olympic Charter, each incident will be evaluated by their respective National Olympic Committee, International Federation and the IOC, and disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis as necessary.

“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,” a statement on the Rule 50 guidelines read.

According to Forbes, in a letter, several athletes - including John Carlos, who raised his fist on the podium at the 1968 Games and expelled from Olympic competition - wrote, “Athletes will no longer be silenced.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. WBTV contributed to this story.