Olympic Committee Bans Athletes From Kneeling, Raising Fists During 2020 Tokyo Games

(TIML NEWS) The summer games kick off in July.

The International Olympic Committee banned athletes from any form of social protests during the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Games. The IOC’s Athlete’s Commission released guidelines on Thursday (Jan. 9) warning athletes to keep Olympic venues and the podium free of “political, religious or ethnic demonstrations.”

“We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in the Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world,” the commission explained in a statement. “This is why it is important, on both a personal and a global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations.

“If we do not, the life’s work of the athletes around us could be tarnished and the world would quickly no longer be able to look at us competing and living respectfully together, as conflicts drive a wedge between individuals and nations.”

Kneeling, raising fists, and displaying any political messaging (including signs or armbands) are named as banned forms of social protests. The IOC also added a list of other places where athletes can go to “express” their views” during the Olympic Games.

Athletes have been known to make social and political statements at the Olympics, years before Colin Kaepernick spearheaded kneeling on the football field. Most notably at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the black power fist while the U.S. National Anthem played in the stadium.

U.S. Olympian Gwen Berry lambasted the newly-released IOC regulations as a “form of control.” Berry, a competitor in the 2016 games in the hammer throw, raised her first at the Pan Am Games last year.

“It’s kind of like silencing us at the biggest moments of our lives. I really don’t agree with it,” Berry told Yahoo! Sports.“They want it to just be sports, for the love of sports.

“We sacrifice for something for four years, and we’re at our highest moment. We should be able to say whatever we want to say, do whatever we have to do – for our brand, our culture, the people who support us, the countries that support us, [everything]. We shouldn’t be silenced. It definitely is a form of control.”

The summer Olympics kick off on Friday, July 24.

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