Tokyo 2020 Olympics BAN athletes from kneeling in protest as 'clear majority' of athletes' reps want no demonstrations

TEAM GB athletes will not be allowed to take the knee at the Tokyo Olympics.

The IOC approved a continued ban on protests and demonstrations at the Games, including during medal ceremonies and competitions.

President Thomas Bach says the IOC executive board “unanimously approved” a recommendation of its own Athletes’ Commission 10-month consultation on Rule 50.

It was initiated following the widespread racial justice movement in the US which was sparked by the murder of unarmed African American George Floyd in Minneapolis.

A total of 3,547 athletes representing 185 countries and 41 sports responded to the online survey in December and January.

And “a clear majority” felt it is “not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at official ceremonies or on the podium”.

Most of the respondents felt it was more appropriate to express their views in press conferences and in the mixed zones.

The IOC Athletes' Commission said: “While freedom of speech and expression is a universally recognised fundamental human right, it is not absolute. Such a right comes with duties and responsibilities.

“Listening to ACs as part of the qualitative consultation, the IOC AC is very concerned about the risk of politicisation of the athletes and the risk that athletes may be put under external pressure. 

“It is important to protect athletes from the potential consequences of being placed in a position where they may be forced to take a public position on a particular domestic or international issue, regardless of their beliefs. 

“In such cases, the political neutrality of the Olympic Games is a way to protect athletes from political interference or exploitation.”

The IOC claim the recommendations were also based on feedback from human rights and sports law experts.

It is not known what will happen if an athlete defies this recommendation and decides to protest during the Olympics this summer.

Athletes’ Commission chair Kirsty Coventry added: “We are asking the legal affairs commission to come up with a proportionate range of different sanctions, so that everyone knows going into a Games what they can and can’t do. 

“It’s up to (them) to give the Athletes’ Commission guidance on proportionality.”

The Olympics, which were rescheduled by 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are set to start on Friday July 23.


Taking the knee to highlight racial discrimination has been a regular sight at Premier League and EFL grounds since last summer.

American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously raised their fists on a podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics during the national anthem as part of the Black Power salute.

One of the recommendations in the report suggested the IOC "increase opportunities for athletes' expression during the Olympic Games", including a possible "moment of solidarity against discrimination" at the Opening Ceremony.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee say they will not punish any of their athletes for demonstrations such as kneeling or raising a fist.


Seb Coe, the boss of World Athletics, said he would support any athlete who takes a knee on the Tokyo Olympics in front of a global audience of billions.

Yet asked if athletes would be punished in Tokyo for doing so, Coventry said: "Yes that is correct."

She added: "That is also because of the majority of athletes we spoke to. That is what they are requesting for."

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