The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) recently released its “demonstration rules” for the Tokyo Games, essentially its rules regarding protests for the U.S. delegation in Tokyo.
The rules outline what is to be considered appropriate based on a “collaborative effort between the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice and USOPC.”
The USOPC does acknowledge, however, that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules govern all Games participants, and they may be much different and applied much differently.
Permitted actions in the “Racial & Social Justice Demonstrations,” area are defined as: “A Demonstration, which does not include any Impermissible Elements, that is explicitly aimed at (1) advancing racial and social justice; or (2) promoting the human dignity of individuals or groups that have historically been underrepresented, minoritized, or marginalized in their respective societal context.”
Among the permitted actions are:
- Wearing a hat or face mask with phrases such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘Trans Lives Matter’ or words such ‘equality,’ ‘justice,’ ‘peace,’ ‘respect,’ ‘solidarity,’ or ‘inclusion.’
- Orally advocating for equity/equal rights for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals,
- Holding up one’s fist at the start line or on the podium.
- Kneeling on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem.
- Advocating for equal treatment of underrepresented, marginalized, or minoritized groups around the world, or against systemic barriers to such equal treatment.
- Advocating for communities free from police violence, or against systemic police discrimination against Black individuals or other marginalized populations.
In these instances, “The USOPC will not sanction Participants who engage in R&S Demonstrations at Games Venues.”
The list of impermissible actions includes any demonstration that:
- (a) advocates specifically against other people, their dignity, or their rights, which may include Hate Speech, Racist Propaganda, or threatening, abusive, or Discriminatory Remarks;
- (b) physically impedes or discourages Games or medal ceremony participation by another Participant;
- (c) causes physical harm to others or to property;
- or (d) violates applicable laws.
Further examples of impermissible actions provided by the USOPC were as follows:
- Wearing a hat or face mask with a hate symbol or hate speech on it. *A list of recognized hate symbols can be found at https://www.adl.org/hate-symbols.
- Using language expressing hatred or Discriminatory Remarks towards a historically minoritized or marginalized group, including but not limited to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+ individuals, and individuals with disabilities.
- Making hand gestures affiliated with hate groups, like white supremacist or terrorist signs.
- Violent protests or acts that damage property at the Games Venue or physically threaten or harm other people.
- Actions/behaviors physically impeding athletes’ right to compete, such as blocking lanes by laying on a track or otherwise interfering with a competition.
- Display of historically discriminatory signs or flags, such as the Confederate flag.
- Defacing, distorting, or causing physical harm to a national flag.
- Protests aimed explicitly against a specific country, organization, person, or group of people.
“If a Participant engages in a Demonstration that includes Impermissible Elements at a Games Venue, then the USOPC will determine a proportionate consequence for the violation of these Rules based on the severity of the violation,” the USOPC says.
There could potentially be a hearing, if requested by the protestor, with sanctions ranging from a warning to loss of funding or the requirement of a formal apology.
Overall, the USOPC states six separate times that it is not the ultimate arbiter on protests at the Games—that distinction belongs to the IOC and IPC.
The USOPC also warns athletes that any reaction from third parties to protests will likely occur and it may not be able to prevent them from making statements, actions, etc.
“Participants should be aware of the possibility that third parties may react to a R&S Demonstration themselves, that some of these reactions may be negative, that the USOPC will not be able to prevent those 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. The USOPC has resources available through Athlete Services to support athletes (e.g., mental health, security).”