The Summer Olympics—postponed from 2020— are now set to take place from July 23, 2021 through August 8, 2021 in Tokyo, against the backdrop of the COIVD-19 pandemic. Though no international fans will be allowed, millions will view the games on TV or online.
What officials are trying to ensure that they do not see on that global center stage are any social justice protests from athletes as witnessed in 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the medals ceremony. Athletes have also reportedly been warned against kneeling during the national anthem.
And yes, Black Lives Matter apparel has also been banned in accordance with a ruling from the International Olympic that any athlete donning them in risk of being punished and or sent home.
However, the words “respect”, “solidarity”, “inclusion” and “equality” are allowed on apparel.
Any athlete breaking the rules can be sanctioned by the IOC, the actual sports governing body or their country’s national Olympics committee.
As the move had been expected, some ruling bodies for individual Olympic sports—like World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field—have indicated that they will not be punishing athletes for protesting. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has also pledged not to sanction athletes for peaceful protests.
In fact, some have promised legal support for athletes who decide to protest.
Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement, issued a statement against the suppression of an athlete’s rights to freedom of expression, writing: “The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) archaic approach to limiting athletes’ rights to freedom of expression is another sign of an outdated sport system that continues to suppress athletes’ fundamental rights. The competitors are humans first, athletes second.”