The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have warned athletes participating in the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics that they will face bans for displaying any political message during national anthems. That includes kneeling, raising a fist in the air, crossing wrists or holding signs or armbands in solidarity with anti-racism movements or any other political movement.
In January, the IOC released guidelines that stated demonstrations will not be allowed at the Olympics stating, "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, chair of the IOC Athletes' Commission, said the athletes wanted clarity on the rules and therefore created a new document breaking down the rules, according to the Telegraph.
Athletes who make a political statement during the games will face discipline "on a case-by-case basis as necessary." Rule 50 Charter states that each incident will be evaluated by their respective National Olympic Committee, International Federation and the IOC:
"It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference. Specifically, the focus for the field of play and related ceremonies must be on celebrating athletes' performance, and showcasing sport and its values ... these guidelines have been developed with the aim that each and every one of you can enjoy the experience of the Olympic Games without any divisive disruption."
The document states that they are prioritizing the feelings of all athletes and don't want to take away from athletic accomplishments. Athletes are not allowed to protest during medal ceremonies, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, on the field of play or at the Athletes' Village.
This rule clarification comes after protests against racism and policy brutality occurred all across the United State and in countries around the world. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a white officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes while the victim struggled to breathe.
While the IOC have reiterated their stance against kneeling in protest, other sports leagues have handled the situation differently in light of Floyd's death and the global protests. The National Football League apologized for their reaction against kneeling during the national anthem, saying they were wrong, while the U.S. Soccer Federation is considering reversing their ban.