IOC says athletes kneeling in protest will still face bans at Tokyo Olympics

Jack Baer

As leading figures in American sports leagues change their tune on systemic racism and player protests, the International Olympic Committee is holding firm on its rules against protesting, according to The Telegraph’s Ben Bloom.

The IOC confirmed to the Telegraph on Tuesday that its guidelines against any protests — including taking a knee or raising a fist at medal ceremonies — are “still in place.” Athletes who violate such guidelines would face bans from the organization on a case-by-case basis.

The guidelines were put in place this January with a three-page document meant to clarify Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

While it specified kneeling, hand gestures and signs as violations, what the document did not clarify was the specific punishments that violating athletes would receive.

Politics around protests have changed in sports

Obviously, the IOC took that initial position well before the death of George Floyd in police custody, which has ignited a firestorm of protests and calls for action in the sports world. Even the NFL has stated it will now encourage players to speak out and peacefully protest on the issues of racial injustice.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has also released a statement pledging solidarity against racism, less than a year after reprimanding and disciplining hammer thrower Gwen Berry for raising a fist at the medal podium at the Pan American Games. Fencer Race Imboden, who took a knee on the podium at the same event, received the same treatment.

Berry is still waiting for an apology.

The USOC has also announced the formation of an athlete-led group to empower black voices.

With more than a year remaining until the rescheduled Tokyo Games in 2021, plenty of things in American politics could change between now and the Opening Ceremonies. However, it seems quite probable that there will still be athletes who bristle over such restrictions when the Games arrive.

The Telegraph reports that the IOC executive board will discuss anti-racism movements on Wednesday.

The IOC is standing by its no-protest guidelines. For now. (Photo by Leonardo Fernandez/Getty Images)

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