Despite Everything, Athletes Will Still Be Banned From Taking A Knee At The Tokyo Olympics

The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will ban athletes from taking a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist movements, sticking to protest guidelines and rules published earlier this year.

The Rule 50 Guidelines – which were released by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in January – banned any form of political protest at the Tokyo Olympic Games, including taking a knee, raising a fist, disrupting medal ceremonies, or making any kind of politically-charged hand gestures while in Olympic sites, venues, or any other areas.

The IOC believes that sport – Olympic or otherwise – should be “neutral and separate from political, religious, or any other type of interference” and that the field of play and related ceremonies must only be about celebrating athletes’ performance as well as “showcasing sport and its values.”

As per the Sydney Morning Herald, these guidelines are still in place and the IOC has confirmed it will be enforced at the incoming Olympic Games, which have been postponed to 2021 due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. The International Paralympic Committee has also confirmed that it also has a policy of not allowing any protest at the Games either.

However, it is also reported that the IOC executive board will discuss anti-racism movements at an upcoming meeting.

Despite Rule 50 still being in place for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, both the British Olympic Association and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee recognise their athletes’ right to protest, with Team USA set to form an ‘athlete-led’ group to challenge the IOC’s rulings around protesting.

USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland took to Twitter on Monday, June 9 to announce the group who will challenge the rules within the USOPC as well as advocate for change in the global Olympic community.

“It is time to match your courage,” Hirshland wrote.

“To listen and to understand. To do the work. To accept that addressing racial injustice is everyone’s concern, every day. To remove the barriers, to change the rules. and to empower Black voices to be heard.”

Outside of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and their venues, athletes are allowed to make political stands and gestures in official media and on their own social media accounts. But as it stands, anything that disrupts the Games or its ceremonies will attract discipline, judged on a case-by-case basis.