Shut up and play!
The National Basketball Association was hit with what amounted to a strike by some of its players last Wednesday protesting the Kenosha, Wisconsin police shooting of an African American man Jacob Blake. Athletes in other sports did not play that night and spoke out against police brutality. Sports owners seemingly have accepted the fact that their employees are speaking out. But the International Olympic Committee does not understand that athletes want to be more than just seen as playing a sport. The IOC wants more time to study the issue. NBA players would have been in violation of Olympics Rule 50 which prevents Olympians from speaking out on pressing issues. In January, IOC President Thomas Bach said the Olympics “must never be a platform to advance political or any other potentially divisive ends”. But in 1936, Adolf Hitler attempted to use the Berlin Games for propaganda purposes and legitimize his rule of the country. In 1972, there was the Munich Massacre where 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. A good number of western countries followed Carter’s lead. The Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries did not go to the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. There was the 1968 Mexico City podium protest by two Americans Thommie Smith and John Carlos along with the Australian Peter Norman protesting among other things poverty both in the United States and around the world. Bach took partial credit when North Korea and South Korea fielded a combined team in the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics. The Olympic Movement needs to change Rule 50 and not muzzle athletes.