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IOC Bans Political Protests During Olympic Events

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The International Olympic Committee is making an attempt to ban athletes’ political protests during the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.

The IOC released a three-page document regarding Rule 50 of its Olympic Charter on Jan. 9, detailing how athletes are banned from protesting on the field of play, in the Olympic Village and during official ceremonies. Political messaging on signs or clothing qualifies as a protest, as well as gestures. Athletes will be allowed to express opinions on social media, in interviews outside the Olympic Village and in meetings.

"We believe that the example we set by competing with the world's best while living in harmony in the Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world," said the Rule 50 Guidelines, which were developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission. "It is important, on both a personal and a global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations. If we do not, the life’s work of the athletes around us could be tarnished, as conflicts drive a wedge between individuals, groups and nations. That is not to say that you should be silent about the issues you care deeply about.”

The IOC’s guidelines say that disciplinary action will be on a case-by-case basis.

A pair of United States athletes – fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry – received 12-month probations for protests done during a medal ceremony at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru in August. According to CBS News, Imboden said he took a knee to protest racism, mistreatment of immigrants and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, while Berry raised a fist to protest social injustice in America. Both athletes are eligible to compete in Tokyo.

Kirsty Coventry, the chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, told the Associated Press that the rules provide clarity.

“The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes,” Coventry said.

“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’s release said.

Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who didn’t shy away from politics while helping lead the United States to a World Cup title this summer, said in an Instagram story Friday that there’s “So much being done about protests. So little being done about what we are protesting about. We will not be silenced.”

Former American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos were inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2019, 51 years after raising their first to protect racial discrimination during the Mexico City Olympics.

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