The International Olympic Committee has issued strict guidelines prohibiting any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The guidelines clarify Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits political propaganda in Olympic facilities and during Olympic events.
The new guidelines specify what constitutes “propaganda,” which it says includes any political messaging such as signs or armbands and “gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling.”
“We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world,” the guideline document says. “This is why it is important, on both a personal and 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.”
The guidelines say the rule applies to coaches, trainers and other team personnel as well as athletes. It also says athletes and others are free to express their views on social media, in team meetings, at press conferences, and outside Olympic venues.
The guidelines do not specify what punishment violators will face, but rather say discipline will be handled on a “case by case basis.”
Political gestures among athletes have been a heated topic since 2017, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat, and then knelt, during the National Anthem before games. Other athletes in several sports, from high school to professional level, have followed suit. In 2018, the NFL required players to stand during the anthem or stay in the locker room.
Political protests by athletes are not new, however; American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos had their medals stripped when they went barefoot and raised gloved fists on the medal podium at the Mexico City games in 1968 to protest racial inequality in the United States.