Athletes who want to hold protests for Black Lives Matter at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games will not be able to do so — and will be punished if they try.
The International Olympic Committee decided on Tuesday that athletes are strictly forbidden from wearing Black Lives Matter apparel to the games, which take place in Japan in just a few weeks. The organization reiterated that it will enforce the Olympics’ “Rule 50,” which bans the overt politicization of sports. The rule expressly prohibits political or social justice protest of any kind at the event.
The rule states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
The Associated Press reports that the rules against “slogans” with political or social justice messaging are “granular” this year and that the organization has specifically banned any apparel bearing the mantra, “Black Lives Matter.”
“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 AP reported, per Daily Wire. “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.”
Instead, athletes intending to express their solidarity with social justice movements are only allowed to wear apparel with “generic” terms like “unity” and “equality.”
The committee previously stated in April that it intends to enforce Rule 50. Any athletes who “take a knee,” which became a common sight in racial justice protests last summer following the death of George Floyd, will face repercussions for the protest.
The committee did not commit to any specific form of punishment for players who violate the rule but says it will determine each athlete who violates it on a case-by-case basis. Should the IOC take action against an athlete, the World Players Association, a union for athletes, said it intends to take up that athlete’s defence.