US Olympic, Paralympic Committee to Allow Kneeling During Anthem at Trials

U.S. athletes will be allowed to protest by kneeling or raising their fists during the national anthem at the Olympic trials,  officials have announced.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said this week they will not sanction athletes for raising their fists or kneeling during the national anthem at Olympic trials, despite a decades-long policy banning protests at the official games.

The USOPC released a nine-page document Tuesday about the sort of ‘racial and social demonstrations’ that will and won’t be allowed.  Holding up a fist, kneeling during the anthem and wearing hats or face masks with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” or words such as “equality” or “justice,” will be permitted, according to the document.

The document comes after U.S. athletes called for more freedom in using their platform at the Olympics to advance “social justice causes.”

The demonstrations must be “advancing racial and social justice; or promoting the human dignity of individuals or groups that have historically been underrepresented, minoritized, or marginalized in their respective societal context,” the document reads.

However, hate symbols, as defined by the Anti-Defamation League, and actions that would impede others from competing, such as laying down in the middle of the track are not allowed.

The document also states it can’t prevent other groups, such as the International Olympic Committee, from punishing athletes from demonstrating.

“Each Participant must make their own personal decision about the risks and benefits that may be involved,” the new guidance says.

The New York Post reported, the International Olympic Committee, published guidelines in January that barred athletes from using the 2021 Tokyo games for political protests.

Those guidelines don’t get into what the punishment will be for those who break the rules, saying only “disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis,” according to the report.

“We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world,” the IOC said.

“This is why it is important, on both a personal and global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations.”

According to the Post, two U.S. athletes were placed on probation for one year after protests at the Pan-American Games in Peru in August.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met and married an American journalist and moved to D.C. from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A. in Graphics, Media, and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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