Political slogans on t-shirts and other clothing in the United States during athletic events is commonplace since 2020.
However, the Olympics in Tokyo this summer will take a different stance. They are banning anything of the sort, including Black Lives Matter apparel.
The Olympic Games in both the winter and the summer has Rule 50, which bans any political or social justice activities of any kind at any international event. The IOC has banned any sloganeering, and specifically Black Lives Matter statements.
“The International Olympic Committee got very granular with what is not allowed. It said specifically that the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ will be banned from athlete apparel at the Summer Olympics,” the IOC told the Associated Press.
“It’s part of the IOC’s long-standing ban on ‘demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda’ on the playing field, the medal stand or during the Games’ official ceremonies.”
Athletes will be encouraged to wear slogans that are more inclusive, including peace, respect, and anything the IOC deems sufficiently generic.
The committee said in April that it will punish those who take a knee, raise a fist, or do any kind of protesting during the games.
The IOC conducted a survey over the last year to gage the interest of political or social justice messaging at the Olympics.
More than 3,500 athletes were contacted, with the 70% telling the committee that they are not in favor of protesting at the games and 67% saying the disapprove of podium demonstrations. They deemed it inappropriate for the situation.
But there is backing for those who want to protest. The World Players Association said it will defend any athlete that wants to do so.
“Any athlete sanctioned at the Tokyo Olympics will have the full backing of the World Players,” said the organization to the AP.
Global Athlete also called Rule 50 outdated and said that it impedes human rights.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said in March that it will not take action against any American athlete that chooses to protest.
“Athletes will be allowed to raise their fists or kneel during the national anthem, and athletes will be allowed to wear ‘hats or face masks’ with specific political phrases like Black Lives Matter,” the committee said.
The U.S. will allow its athletes to wear political slogans and protest during their sports respective trials to qualify for the Olympics. However, it looks they have an uphill climb when it comes to Tokyo.
The IOC has not commented on how severe the punishment will be, saying that it will take matters a case-by-case basis.
The most famous protest case in history came at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, when U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the podium in a black power salute.
Both were expelled from the games.