It looks like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is standing firm in their stance against political demonstrations, and this includes banning competitors from donning Black Lives Matter apparel.
The IOC mentioned earlier this year that it would ban political protests during events and ceremonies, such as raising a fist or kneeling during the national anthem. This is known as Rule 50, prohibiting “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” on Olympic grounds.
However, the International Olympic Committee has recently specified that this ban also applies to any clothing associated with Black Lives Matter. While clothing with terms like “equality” and “peace” are acceptable, anything specifically emblazoned with “BLM” or “Black Lives Matter” is not allowed.
There has been no mention of how athletes will be punished for breaking these rules, although the IOC did state that incidents will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, because all Olympic competitors are subject to reprimand by multiple entities (the IOC itself, the governing body of their specific sport, and their home country’s Olympic committee), the penalties are expected to vary to some extent.
The International Olympic Committee’s decision comes in the face of other major sports governing bodies, like the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and World Athletics, pledging to not punish or sanction athletes who engage in peaceful protesting.
This decision for BLM gear and social protesting to be banned from the Olympics may come as a shock to those familiar with with the history of Olympians using the platform for similar messages. Specifically, at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Timmie Smith and John Carlos made a Black Power and human rights salute during the U.S. national anthem.
The postponed 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan from July 23rd to August 8th.