ST. LOUIS, Mo. – When the 2020 Toyko Olympics begins in July, you won’t see any forms of political expression from athletes in competition or on the medal stand. The International Olympic Committee has new guidelines for this type of speech.
According to Charter Rule 50, athletes are prohibited from taking a political stand in the field of play or on the podium. The new guidelines prohibit wearing shirts or armbands with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” or kneeling during a country’s national anthem.
Famed track and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee has six Olympic medals and competed in four Olympic games. She said she respects the Olympic Committee but added that, ultimately, athletes are going to do what they want.
One of the most famed images in Olympic history is that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black-gloved fists during the national anthem in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
“That expression, they were talking about hunger and poverty and equal opportunity for all,” Joyner-Kersee said. “It’s still some of the same issues we are facing today.”
Joyner-Kersee said she sees political expressions of athletes as a way to bring awareness to something with the world watching.
“For a lot of athletes, the Olympic movement is the only time they can really know that the world is watching, and so you can say it is a political stance, but I think it is people fight for their own civil rights,” she said.
According to the International Olympic Committee, the core idea behind the new guidelines is that “sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious, or any other type of interference.”