Apr 21, 2021 - Sports

Taking a knee, other protests still banned at Tokyo Olympics

A shadow is cast as the sun sets behind the Olympic Rings in Tokyo, Japan.
A shadow is cast as the sun sets behind the Olympic Rings on April 21 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: by Carl Court/Getty Images

Athletes who take a knee or demonstrate with other forms of protest during the Tokyo Olympics this summer will be punished under a ban endorsed by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

The state of play: The announcement backing the protection of neutrality for the Olympic Games comes one day after the world watched a Minneapolis jury convict a former police officer of murdering George Floyd, a Black man. The incident last summer sparked global demonstrations for racial justice.

What they said: When asked if athletes would be punished for making political statements such as taking a knee on the podium, IOC's Athletes' Commission chief Kirsty Coventry replied, "Yes that is correct," Reuters reports.

  • "[A] clear majority of athletes said that it is not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play (70% of respondents), at official ceremonies (70% of respondents) or on the podium (67% of respondents)," the IOC said in a statement.
  • Yes, but: The group acknowledges, some athletes disagree, arguing for freedom of expression and speech.

Background: IOC officials said they based their decision in part on a study involving more than 3,500 athletes representing 185 National Olympic Committees and 41 sports.

Go deeper