Global Athletes group calls for IOC to abolish Rule 50, which bans protests at Olympic Games
The International Olympic Committee’s ban on protests — including kneeling in support of anti-racism — is a breach of human rights, according to the Global Athlete group.
- The International Olympic Committee is consulting with athletes over its Rule 50 which bans protests at the Games
- Kneeling protests have been widespread following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in the US after a policeman knelt on his neck
- Various sports have allowed protests at their events, but the Olympics and Paralympics have not yet followed
The group has called on Olympic and Paralympic officials to move immediately to abolish the rule, opening up the ability for athletes to make genuine acts of protest without penalty.
Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.
Athletes breaking the rules are subject to discipline on a case-by-case basis and the IOC issued guidelines in January clarifying that banned protests included taking a knee.
“The IOC and IPC’s (International Paralympic Committee recent statement that athletes who ‘take a knee’ … will face bans is a clear breach of human rights,” Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement that aims to inspire change in world sport, said in a statement.
“Athletes around the globe were awestruck with this statement and demanded change.”
The most famous demonstration at an Olympic Games is the human rights protest on the medal podium by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos after the 200 metres event at Mexico City in 1968.
The pair bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air during the playing of the US national anthem after Smith won the final. IOC president Avery Brundage ordered the two athletes to be expelled from the Games and sent home.
Several major sporting organisations have moved to allow protests at their events following the death last month of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis after a white policeman knelt on his neck.
The IOC said last week athletes would decide how best to support the core Olympic values “in a dignified way” as calls to change regulations restricting protests at Olympic Games grew louder.
“Once again, athletes stood together and their collective voice has pressured the IOC to pivot on its position and now consult with athletes on Rule 50,” Global Athlete added.
“It is time for change. Every athlete must be empowered to use their platforms, gestures and voice.
“Silencing the athlete voice has led to oppression, silence has led to abuse and silence has led to discrimination in sport.”