United States women’s soccer star, Megan Rapinoe, perhaps best known for taking a knee during the American national anthem at National Women’s Soccer League matches (and skipping out on the national anthem altogether during the World Cup), is firing back at the International Olympic Committee Monday after the IOC banned political protests by athletes competing at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Rapinoe took to Instagram and Twitter to declare that she and others “will not be silenced,” despite the IOC’s pleas for athletes to keep their political opinions off the field of play or risk ruining the “uniting” and “neutral” stance of the global Olympic games.
“So much for being done about the protests,” the women’s soccer star wrote on social media, above a graphic showing fists raised in the air. “So little being done about what we are protesting about. We will not be silenced.”
Megan Rapinoe responds to the IOC banning protests at the Olympics: “We will not be silenced” pic.twitter.com/69PljKC8u5
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 10, 2020
The International Olympic Committee said Friday that protesting on the field of play, or in awards ceremonies or official activities is prohibited, and that such “divisive disruption” could meet with disciplinary action.
“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 IOC said in a statement released to global media on Friday, per CBS News. “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.”
“They are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends,” IOC President Thomas Bach added in his own statement. “Our political neutrality is undermined whenever organizations or individuals attempt to use the Olympic Games as a stage for their own agendas, as legitimate as they may be.”
Athletes are still allowed to express their personal opinion, “during press interviews outside the Village, in meetings and on traditional and social media,” when they are on their own time, the outlet says.
That will definitely throw some cold water on Rapinoe’s protests, which she began in solidarity with now-former 49ers second string quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache,” Rapinoe wrote in an essay for The Players Tribune back in 2016, when Kaepernick was actively protesting. “There is no perfect way to protest…I know that nothing I do will take away the pain of those families. But I feel in my heart it is right to continue to kneel during the national anthem, and I will do whatever I can to be part of the solution.”
Women’s soccer doesn’t have a wide audience, so few noticed Rapinoe’s protests until the U.S. women’s national soccer team began dominating the global competition in the women’s World Cup. At that point, Rapinoe’s protests put her front and center. She had planned to continue her proud tradition of kneeling or absenting herself during the national anthem if the team won a medal in Tokyo, and pledged, on social media, not to be deterred.