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Tokyo Olympics Bans Kneeling, Hand Gestures, And Other Political Messaging

By Parker Diakite

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The International Olympic Committee is warning athletes not to participate in certain forms of political protest at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Gestures including, kneeling, political hand gestures, wearing or holding signs will not be permitted, according to a three-page document of the guidelines released by the committee to reinforce Rule 50.

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“We needed clarity, and they wanted clarity on the rules,” Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, which helped create the new document, told the Associated Press. “The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes.”

The guidelines demonstrations such as those staged by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, American sprinters who raised their gloved fists on the medal stand at the 1968 Games in Mexico City, and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick who, in 2016, began kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice, as reported in the Washington Post.

According to the guidelines,  protests and demonstrations will not be permitted during the Olympic Games or venues, including the field of play, the Olympic Village,  during Olympic medal ceremonies, and the opening, closing and other official ceremonies.

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Athletes who protest will face discipline “on a case-by-case basis as necessary,” the guidelines read.

“If we do not, the life’s work of the athletes around us could be tarnished, and the world would quickly no longer be able to look at us competing and living respectfully together, as conflicts drive a wedge between individuals,
groups, and nations,” the guidelines read.

There is one exception for athletes. Athletes will be allowed to discuss political issues during interactions with the media, at team meetings and on “digital or traditional media, or on other platforms,” according to the document.

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