Dec 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee to permit athlete participation in racial justice protests

olympic rings

Photo: Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee on Thursday said it will no longer prohibit athletes from "peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice for all human beings."

Why it matters: The committee in January said that "[n]o kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas." Athletes were still allowed to demonstrate or protest at press conferences, in interviews, at team meetings, and on digital and traditional media platforms.

  • The committee further warned that "disciplinary action [would] be taken on a case-by-case basis as necessary" for those who violated protest rules.

The big picture: Sporting events have become a common arena for people to protest systemic racism. In the U.S., former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked a national conversation on racial injustice when he started to kneel during the national anthem in 2016.

What they're saying: "The USOPC's decision recognized that Team USA athletes serve as a beacon of inspiration and unity globally, and their voices have and will be a force for good and progress in our society," a statement from USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland reads.

  • "In the United States, we need to continue to use the platforms we have available to us to foster discussion, education and action for racial and social justice."
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