On Wednesday the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission released their recommendations on the changes to Rule 50, which governs athlete expression at the Olympic Games. After consulting over 3,500 athletes, over two-thirds of those surveyed believe that protests during competition, on the medal stand, or during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies should not take place.
The results in the survey and recommendations resulted in a number of athletes and organizations speaking out against the findings while showing support for athletes who do choose to protest.
The USOPC Athlete Advisory Council released a statement via Twitter indicating their displeasure with the findings saying “Until the IOC changes its approach of feeding the myth of the neutrality of sport or protecting the status quo, the voices of marginalized athletes will continue to be silenced.”
— USOPC AAC (@USOPC_AAC) April 22, 2021
Members of the AAC leadership team include swimmer Anthony Ervin, a three-time gold medalist. Ervin also released a video voicing his displeasure with the IOC AC recommendations saying “Are you to be atop that podium, and those moments, for those few moments, you will lead your country. You wanna take a knee? Lead us by taking a knee. You wanna raise a fist? Lead us by raising a fist. You wanna cry tears of joy? Lead us with your tears.”
The Chair of the AAC leadership is bobsledder and skeleton racer Bree Schaaf, who also works as the program manager for Global Athlete. GA is an “international athlete-led movement that will inspire and lead positive change in world sport.” GA released a statement against the recommendations. GA had social science research experts review the IOC survey and concluded that that the methodology was both leading and flawed. GA believes that the IOC’s recommendations “further dictates when, where, and what athletes can speak. This is the opposite to freedom of expression.”
In March the USOPC released their guidelines for athlete protests at Olympic and Paralympic Trials events. The USOPC has specified that it is allowing Racial & Social Justice demonstrations that promote historically underrepresented and marginalized groups. They are also prohibiting symbols and slogans of hate such as the confederate flag. The recommendations from the IOC AC are much more general in that they look at how and where athletes can protest rather than what specific slogans and symbols will be allowed or prohibited.
Athleten Deutschland, an independent group that represents German athletes, have given their support to athletes who choose to protest at the Tokyo Games. Johannes Herber, the executive director of AD said “Should German athletes decide to peacefully stand up for fundamental values such as fighting racism during the Olympic Games, they can rely on the legal support of Athleten Deutschland.”
Despite these groups speaking out, over half [53%] of American athletes polled were against podium protest while over 60% were against protests during the Opening Ceremony or during competition.