The International Olympic Committee will uphold its long-standing ban on political, social and ideological protests at the upcoming Tokyo Games.
That includes prohibiting athletes from wearing apparel that features the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. It’s unclear what sort of punishment athletes could face for breaking the rule, only that the IOC would approach them on a case-by-case basis.
The concept isn’t new. The Olympics’ Rule 50 has long stood as a ban on “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” that applies to the field of play, medal podiums and opening and closing ceremonies.
While slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” will not be allowed at Olympic venues, the words “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality” have been approved.
Atlanta Dream co-owner Renee Montgomery spoke on MSNBC on Thursday, saying that the Olympics shouldn’t prohibit athletes from speaking out and that, for some, the BLM movement is their motivation.
“That’s something that’s in players’ normal rotation, their normal lifestyle,” Montgomery said. “For the Olympics to basically take away their freedom of speech and their freedom to express themselves, I don’t think it’s fair … The Olympics are where we’ve seen a lot of protests happen.”
Montgomery said she’s not sure if the rule will discourage athletes from continuing to represent the movement on their clothing, but that it’s not something they should have to wrestle with in the first place.