International Olympic Committee Bans Protesting for 2020 Olympics

Gabrielle Chenault | Staff Writer

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Photo Credit: Flickr User Elliot Harmon

“We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country.” 

When John Carlos and Tommie Smith decided to protest during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, they had no idea the series of events that would follow. These two African American men did a black power salute at the games and while many were proud of this feat, many Americans were extremely upset. They were suspended from the U.S. team, received death threats, lost countless sports deals and even faced homelessness. 

As the Olympic Games come closer, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released a three-page guideline that states “Athletes are banned from protesting while on the field of play, in the Olympic Village and during medal and other official ceremonies.”

This announcement has occurred due to two Americans protesting at the Pan-American games in August 2019. Race Imboden and Gwen Berry protested during their medal ceremonies. 

Race Imboden explained the protest in a tweet: “Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list.” 

In an interview with NBC Sports, she explained that she had raised her fist as “a testament” to everything that she and the country had been through in the past year. Due to their protest, they were both given a 12-month ban meaning they will not be allowed to participate at the Olympics. After both of these athletes won gold at the Pan-American games, many are shocked over this harsh ruling and the IOC’s newest guideline. 

“Professional athletes already have a limited speech due to certain sports contracts they are in,” said Shakeria Johnson, a sophomore student-athlete at Hampton. “To tell them that they can’t express their views shows how this committee doesn’t want athletes to have a voice at all.”

According to an article published by CBS News, the goal of this ban is to “keep a global focus on athletes’ performances and on international unity and harmony.”

“I think by instating this ban, they are going to see more people protesting the committee due to them limiting their free speech,” said HU student Maya Tillet, a junior psychology major from Virginia. She continued to explain how fewer people might watch the Olympics in a form of protest due to this unjust ruling. 

As the Olympics games grow closer, many are going to be interested to see if any athletes decided to risk their careers to protest injustices they face within their own countries. As American Olympian Gwen Berry said, “It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”

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