In the United States, major sporting leagues are slowly embracing athletes and their right to engage in peaceful protests such as kneeling or making a statement with their clothing. In contrast, the Olympics has banned protests and shirts containing the words “Black Lives Matter” after polling international athletes who are reportedly in favor of the ruling.
Back in April, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) doubled down on their commitment to keep protests and political messaging banned from the upcoming Games according to a report from ESPN around two weeks ago. According to a survey of the athletes, it was discovered that many of the athletes agreed with the ban and would eliminate a number of protests that include fist-raising, taking a knee, and wearing messages with the threat of punishment should those acts and instances occur.
This point was hammered home during a press conference back in April from the IOC which detailed the findings of the survey of over 3,500 athletes to ascertain their desire to keep the ban of protest and political messaging in place.
“A very clear majority of athletes said that they think it’s not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at the official ceremonies or at the podium,” Kirsty Coventry, the International Olympic Committee’s commission chief, said. “So our recommendation is to preserve the podium, field of play and official ceremonies from any kind of protest or demonstrations or acts perceived as such.”
The Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23, 2021. The IOC and its legal commission are expected to determine what the proper punishment will be for violating the ban. A global union and a German activist group said it will offer legal assistance to any athlete that disrupts the ban and are punished.