The Olympics prohibit athletes from any form of political expression

Facebook posts: “Japan has banned all clothing (Black Lives Matter) from the Olympics. Nobody can kneel down or raise their fists during the hymns either.”

PolitiFact’s decision: Half true

Here’s why: Protests by athletes at sporting events have long been a matter of contention in the eyes of the public; some detractors say athletes should stick to the sport, while supporters say they should be able to use their platform to raise awareness of an issue.

Ahead of this year’s Olympics, which are slated to start on July 23, a Facebook post claims that Japan has banned athletes from expressing themselves politically during the Tokyo Summer Games, including wearing clothes that say ” Black Lives Matter ”.

“Japan has banned all BLM clothing from the Olympics,” read the June 20 post. “No one can kneel down or raise their fists during the hymns either. I’m proud of Japan.”

The post was reported as part of Facebook’s efforts to tackle fake news and disinformation on its news feed.

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The message is wrong in that it is not for the host country to define the rules that athletes must follow when participating in the games. Rather, it is the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee.

However, the IOC has a provision in its charter, called Rule 50, which prohibits athletes from making any kind of political expression, especially on the medal podiums, on the playing field and during the opening and closing ceremonies. fencing. The rule does not target any particular movement or ideology.

The rule states: “No kind of political, religious or racial manifestation or propaganda is permitted at Olympic venues, venues or other areas.” A version of Rule 50 has been in place in the IOC Charter since at least 1975.

Examples of prohibited expressions include displaying any form of political message on a person’s dress and performing anything that could be considered political, such as kneeling or raising a fist.

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The IOC did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment regarding Black Lives Matter clothing at the Olympics.

At the Olympic Games, the focus should be on athlete performance, sport and international unity, and “it is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and should be separated from any political, religious or other interference. other type, ”said Rule 50 of the guidelines developed. by the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

Rule 50 has been under intense scrutiny for several years, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee recently sought to have the rule amended amid a growing wave of American athletes taking public charge of justice cases. social, reported The Washington Post. The IOC revised the rule and announced in April that it would not be changed.

Olympics officials will allow Tokyo athletes to wear clothing with more general messages, such as “inclusion,” “peace,” “equality” and “respect,” according to the Associated Press.

The IOC also said there would be opportunities for athletes to “express their views” – in press conferences, interviews, team meetings and on social media.

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Political expression at past Olympic events

Acts of political expression by athletes at the Olympics are not new and occurred as early as the Athens Games of 1906, when a track and field athlete named Peter O’Connor waved a pro-Irish flag while representing Britain, according to the BBC.

Perhaps the best-known example of an Olympian using the world event to make a political statement was the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when American athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith nodded and raised their heads. gloved fists at a medal ceremony at the height of the Black Power movement.

The IOC at the time called their display a “willful and violent violation of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit” and expelled Carlos and Smith from the games.

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Our decision

A Facebook post claims, “Japan has banned all clothing (Black Lives Matter) from the Olympics. Neither can anyone kneel or raise their fists during the hymns.”

The message is partly correct.

The IOC, not a host country, sets the rules that athletes must follow.

Clothing that says Black Lives Matter can be considered a form of political expression, and Olympic officials have for decades had a rule banning all forms of political expression. Kneeling or raising a fist are prohibited forms of political expression. The IOC Rule does not specifically target Black Lives Matter, nor any ideology or movement.

We are evaluating the message as half-true.

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  • Facebook post, June 20, 2011
  • World Olympic Library, Olympic Charter 2020, accessed June 27, 2021
  • Olympic World Library, Olympic Rules 1975 (Provisional Edition), accessed June 27, 2021
  • International Olympic Committee, Rule 50 Guidelines developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission, consulted on June 27, 2021
  • The Associated Press, “Olympic athletes pledged legal support if they protest,” April 22, 2021
  • The Washington Post, “Olympic officials uphold rule banning athlete protests, ignoring US calls for change,” April 21, 2021
  • International Olympic Committee, “Recommendations of the IOC Athletes’ Commission on Rule 50 and athlete expression at the Olympic Games fully approved by the IOC Executive Board”, April 21, 2021
  • CBBC Newsround, “Rule 50: A History of Olympic Games Protests,” June 5, 2021
  • BBC, “1968: Black athletes make silent protest”, October 17, 2004

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