Following up on a decision made last December to allow Olympic athletes to “peacefully and respectfully” engage in demonstrations for racial and social justice, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee released guidelines Tuesday delineating which forms of protest are “acceptable” during this year’s Olympic trials.
As The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow reported, the USOPC decided in December that athletes participating in 2020 Olympic trials “will not be sanctioned for ‘peacefully and respectfully’ demonstrating in support of social justice causes,” and that the committee planned to do away with guidelines effectively preventing any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at Olympic sites or during official ceremonies.
The USOPC released its updated guidelines on Tuesday, clearing the way for Olympic athletes to engage in protest, though the guidelines do severely limit the options athletes have for demonstrating, according to ABC News.
“The USOPC released a nine-page document Tuesday to offer guidance about the sort of ‘facial and social demonstrations’ that will and won’t be allowed by the hundreds who will compete in coming months for spots on the U.S. team,” the outlet reported. “The document comes three months after the federation, heeding calls from its athletes, determined it would not enforce longstanding rules that ban protests at the Olympics.”
Athletes will be allowed to raise their fists or kneel during the national anthem, and athletes will be allowed to wear “hats or face masks” with specific political phrases like “Black Lives Matter,” or words like “equality” or “justice.” Athletes are prevented from wearing any recognized hate symbol and cannot protest by impeding the field of play or by causing trouble for other athletes during competition.
Initially, back in December, the USOPC seemed to draw the line at “divisive demonstrations,” but instead, in the new guidelines, the committee simply requires that all protests have the goal of “advancing racial and social justice; or promoting the human dignity of individuals or groups that have historically been underrepresented, minoritized, or marginalized in their respective societal context.”
As the Daily Wire has noted, Americans have shown a declining interest in sporting events that embrace a social justice message. The NBA, specifically, lost millions of viewers following its decision to allow its athletes to engage in protests and demonstrations following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The USOPC does seem to acknowledge that racial and social justice demonstrations could be costly and warns athletes, in its guidelines, that it cannot be held responsible if third parties drop sponsorships or refuse to endorse participants who engage in protests, even if the USOPC itself will not punish athletes who violate the Olympic rules.
In a letter to athletes, the committee makes clear that it cannot “prevent … third parties from making statements or taking actions of their own, and that each Participant must make their own personal decision about the risks and benefits that may be involved.”
This year’s Olympic Games, which were postponed from 2020, will take place in Tokyo, Japan. Next year’s Winter Olympic Games are slated to take place in Beijing, China, where political protests become more complicated.