Olympic athletes banned from political statements at 2020 Tokyo Games

The 2020 Olympics begin in July

The International Olympic Committee on Thursday affirmed that athletes are banned from making political statements at the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, months after two Americans were rebuked for their demonstrations at the Pan-American Games.

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Officials unveiled strict rules governing athlete behavior in the form of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. The rule states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

While Rule 50 already existed, the IOC identified specific examples of actions that are no longer permitted during the Olympics. Athletes are banned from kneeling, making hand gestures or displaying political messages in the form of armbands or other attire, among other restrictions.

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“It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference,” the IOC Athletes’ Commission said. “Specifically, the focus for the field of play and related ceremonies must be on celebrating athletes’ performance, and showcasing sport and its values.”

Rule 50 notes that athletes are subject to restrictions on political statements while on the field of play, in the Olympic Village, on the medal podium and attending any official Olympic ceremony. Team officials, coaches and trainers are also subject to the rules.

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Olympic athletes are free to express their political views on social media, at team meeting and while speaking to the media, the IOC noted.

The rule clarification came months after two U.S. athletes, fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry, staged protests while on the medal podium at the Pan-American Games in Leru. Imboden took a knee on the medal stand to protest social and political injustice, mirroring similar protests by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players in recent years.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee placed both athletes on a 12-month probationary period for their actions.

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The 2020 Olympics begin in July.