Athletes Banned From Wearing Black Lives Matter Apparel at Tokyo Olympics

Image via Getty/Carl Court

The International Olympic Committee has ruled that athletes will not be permitted to wear Black Lives Matter apparel during the Tokyo Olympics.

Per WBTV 3 (via the Associated Press), the IOC revealed two weeks ago it would consider punishing any athletes involved in protests or demonstrations during the ceremonies or on the podium, specifically forbidding it. This week, the IOC said any items of clothing featuring slogans like “Black Lives Matter” will not be allowed. Despite the move, apparel featuring the words “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion,” and “equality” are permitted.

In citing reasons for the decision, the IOC said 70 percent of 3,500 athletes surveyed last year agreed it wasn’t “appropriate to demonstrate or express their views” while participating in the Olympics, or attending the opening and closing ceremonies. There’s no such restriction on apparel worn during any press conferences, interviews, or team meetings, however.

“A very clear majority of athletes said that they think it’s not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at the official ceremonies or at the podium,” said Kirsty Coventry, the International Olympic Committee’s commission chief. “So our recommendation is to preserve the podium, field of play and official ceremonies from any kind of protest or demonstrations or acts perceived as such.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, criticized the decision in a tweet.

“The Olympics will now BAN any athlete who wears a BLM shirt, kneels during the national anthem or raises a fist to oppose racism,” said Crump on Wednesday. “This sends the WRONG message about basic human rights & I urge the Olympic Committee to reverse this decision!”

The Tokyo Olympics are currently scheduled to begin July 23, although Japan is currently experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases. The Japan Times reports the state of emergency could extend until the end of May, and there’s been increasing pressure from medical staff regarding calls for volunteer nurses and doctors to take part in the Olympics amid the pandemic, as the Guardian reported.

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