Athletes who wear Black Lives Matter apparel at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will face repercussions.
Last month, The International Olympic Committee said athletes are not permitted to protest due to the committee’s stance against “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda.” Adding to this rule, the committee announced that BLM apparel will be banned. There will be no international fans at the summer games in Tokyo.
“The IOC is very concerned about the risk of politicisation of the athletes and the risk that athletes may be put under external pressure,” the group said in April. “It is important to protect athletes from the potential consequences of being placed in a position where they may be forced to take a public position on a particular domestic or international issue, regardless of their beliefs.”
While the committee has banned the verbatim phrase “Black Lives Matter” from being advertised or celebrated by athletes, other words like “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality” are permitted. The Olympics group did not say what punishments those who violate the rules will face.
In clarifying its position against athletes protesting during events, the IOC relied on Rule 50, the Olympic Charter’s prohibiting of propaganda. “Divisive disruption” will be characterized in Tokyo as kneeing, making hand gestures that imply a political position, or not allowing a medalist to step up to the podium.
Some groups claim they will provide legal support for athletes that violate the IOC’s rules. An activist group in Germany has announced it will assist those who are “fighting racism.”
“Should German athletes decide to peacefully stand up for fundamental values such as fighting racism during the Olympic Games, they can rely on the legal support of Athleten Deutschland,” Johannes Herber, an executive for the union told the Associated Press.
Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association union, also told the AP his organization will assist if players choose to violate the IOC’s rules. “This is precisely the outcome we expected,” Schwab said. “The Olympic movement doesn’t understand its own history better than the athletes.
American athletes have grown increasingly political. When the National Basketball Association’s shortened season began in July 2020, many players wore BLM shirts and kneeled during the national anthem.