The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee will allow athletes to do acts of demonstration against racial and social injustice at the U.S. team trials, including acts such as kneeling on the podium or raising a fist just as Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously did at the 1968 Olympic Summer Games.
Developed and finalized in collaboration with the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice’s Protests and Demonstrations steering committee, the rules identify criteria related to permissible demonstrations “that are aimed at advancing racial and social justice or promoting the human dignity of individuals or groups that have been historically underrepresented, minoritized or marginalized.” Impermissible Elements of demonstration will include hate speech and “protests aimed explicitly against a specific organization, person or group of people,” according to the Trial Participant Rules for Racial and Social Demonstrations.
[Read the Guidelines Here]
“It’s clear this subject is an important one,” USOPC Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter to athletes, later adding “Our Olympic and Paralympic community, including alumni athletes, current athletes and future generations of hopefuls, is unique in its diversity – in race, gender, background and perspectives – but we are united as members of Team USA and we are a powerful force for good.”
Hirshland said the USOPC will also work to create opportunities through Team USA platforms to promote athletes’ commitment to racial and social justice as well as future engagement opportunities for athletes to share firsthand experiences.
The rules also outline possible sanctions for violations of the Trials demonstrations rules and a dispute resolution process to ensure athlete participation rights are upheld. The rules do not apply to the rescheduled 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games in Tokyo and the USOPC makes clear to athletes in its rules that it cannot “prevent … third parties from making statements or taking actions of their own, and that each Participant must make their own personal decision about the risks and benefits that may be involved.” Those third parties could include the International Olympic Committee, which is in the process of its own review led by an athletes’ commission about athlete demonstrations.