American Olympians Can Protest At Games Venues

A change in attitude.

American Olympic athletes will be able to express their viewpoints and not worry about being subjected to a penalty. The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has decided it is not worth the effort to penalize athletes for stating their opinions or staging peaceful protests at Olympic events. The Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice has concluded that Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and International Paralympic Committee Section 2.2 violates “athletes’ rights to free speech and freedom of expression.” But the council also wanted to make clear that it would not tolerate hate speech by declaring it wanted to “distinguish between human rights/social justice protests and instances of hate speech, racist propaganda, and discriminatory remarks aimed at eliminating the rights and dignity of historically marginalized populations”.

Rule 50 states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The American committee’s change in thinking was not what the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach had in mind for his group. In January, Bach said the Olympics “must never be a platform to advance political or any other potentially divisive ends”. Yet it has occurred in Olympics history.  In 1936, Adolf Hitler attempted to use the Berlin Games to legitimize his rule of Germany. In 1972, members of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s offshoot Black September killed 11 Israelis. The Olympic movement threw out South Africa in 1964 because of apartheid. There was the African countries boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games. American President Jimmy Carter ordered a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games because the Soviet Union refused to leave Afghanistan. The Soviet Union did not go to the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. The Olympics is a political platform.

(Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP