Sunday, September 26

Carlos and Smith say the IOC is not yet fully committed to athletes’ freedom of protest | Tokyo 2020 Olympics

On July 2, the International Olympic Committee announced changes to Rule 50, which prohibited athletes from protesting at Olympic sites. It loosened some regulations, allowing competitors in Tokyo freer expression during interviews, press conferences and in mixed zones. But now, a group of more than 150 athletes, teachers, members of sports organizations, and human rights and social justice experts from around the world have written an open letter calling for more action.

“We acknowledge the changes made in the expression of athletes at the Tokyo Games,” the letter reads. It continues: “While we appreciate the progress made by the IOC / IPC in promoting the expression of athletes, we do not believe that the changes made reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right or to racial and social justice. in world sport “.

American hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who was sanctioned by the IOC after raising her fist during the anthem at an awards ceremony at the 2019 Pan American Games, is among the signatories. (Berry also deviated from the American flag during Olympic trials in June.) So are Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the sprinters who raised their fists during a podium ceremony at the 1968 Olympics.

The letter presents several concrete demands to the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee, whose regulations present similar restrictions on the expression of athletes. “The IOC / IPC cannot commit to preserving human dignity while silencing the most vulnerable voices within the Olympic and Paralympic community,” the letter says.

The signatories call for governing bodies in Tokyo and the 2022 Beijing Games to refrain from imposing sanctions on athletes who protest within internationally recognized human rights frameworks, including on podiums. They also call for a comprehensive revision of Rule 50 after the Beijing Games.

In its response to Friday’s letter, the IOC maintained its commitment to the rules as they stand, calling for the widespread support of the athletes and their position that the Olympics be an apolitical event. “Rule 50.2 provides a framework to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympics,” the statement said. “In calling for more opportunities for athletes to express themselves during the Olympic Games, representatives of athletes from around the world expressed their support to keep the podium, the playing field and the ceremonies free from any form of protest.”

Team GB sprinter Dina Asher-Smith told The Guardian this week that she believes banning anti-racism protests would be a mistake.

“Protesting and expressing yourself is a fundamental human right,” said Asher-Smith. “If you had to punish someone for opposing racial inequality, how the hell would that go? How the hell are you going to enforce that? “

“When people feel strongly about something, particularly when it’s something that is so close to your heart, and as a black woman you think about racism, I think you can’t control people’s voice on that. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do. “

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