Olympic athletes are not allowed to kneel, raise their fists, or otherwise protest on playing fields or medal podiums, the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday in an announcement upholding the current ban on political demonstrations.
Olympic athletes were long banned from making political statements or protests at the Summer or Winter Games, but the IOC re-examined the issue in an 11-month study after a new wave of activist-athletes took public positions on topics ranging from sexism to sexism had racism for human rights.
To "protect the neutrality of the sport," the IOC said the rule will remain unchanged after a survey of more than 3,500 athletes from 185 countries found that 70% considered protests on the field inappropriate and 67% protested against medals reject stands.
"The IOC AC is very concerned about the risk of politicization of athletes and the risk of athletes being put under external pressure," the organization said in a statement. "It is important to protect athletes from the possible consequences of a position in which they could be forced to take a public position on a particular national or international issue, regardless of their beliefs."
The IOC and its Athletes Commission said they "fully support freedom of expression" but that protests or political statements at press conferences and interviews, team meetings or on social media are more appropriate.
"The goal of this broad outreach was to get in touch with athletes and hear their thoughts on opportunities, both existing and new, to express their views in and outside the Olympics," said Kirsty Coventry, a former swimmer who attended the won Olympic gold medal The current chairman of the IOC Athletes Commission said in a statement. "We want to strengthen the voices of the athletes and find more ways to support the values of the Olympics and what sport stands for."
The IOC did not specify how athletes would be punished or punished if they protested anyway, only that they would be treated on a case-by-case basis.
In December, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it would not punish athletes who peacefully protest against social justice issues at the Olympics.
The Tokyo Summer Olympics, postponed by the pandemic last year, are slated to begin on July 23.