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Tokyo Olympics: Athletes will get legal support if they protest

ATHLETICS By Associated Press | April 24th 2021
Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa protests at Rio 2016 Olympics. [File, Standard]

Athletes who make political or social justice protests at the Tokyo Olympics were promised legal support Thursday by a global union and an activist group in Germany.

The pledges came one day after the International Olympic Committee confirmed its long-standing ban on “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” on the field of play, medal podiums or official ceremonies.

Raising a fist or kneeling for a national anthem could lead to punishment from the IOC. The Olympic body’s legal commission should clarify what kind of punishment before this year’s games, which open on July 23.

The IOC also said that slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” will not be allowed on athlete apparel at Olympic venues, though it approved using the words “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality” on T-shirts.

The IOC’s athletes’ commission cited support to uphold Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter from more than two-thirds of about 3,500 replies from consulting athlete groups.

“This is precisely the outcome we expected,” said Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association union. “The Olympic movement doesn’t understand its own history better than the athletes.”

Speaking to The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Australia, Schwab said “Any athlete sanctioned at the Tokyo Olympics will have the full backing of the World Players.”

The independent group representing German athletes pledged legal backing for its national team.

“Should German athletes decide to peacefully stand up for fundamental values such as fighting racism during the Olympic Games, they can rely on the legal support of Athleten Deutschland,” Johannes Herber, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement.

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