The International Olympic Committee has announced that they will sanction any athlete who protests or kneels at the Olympics.

These new sanctions come after the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced that Team USA athletes would be permitted to hold up a fist, kneel, and wear garments promoting racial and social justice while taking part in all future US Olympic & Paralympic trial events.

A statement was released Wednesday by Kirsty Coventry, Chair of the IOC AC, that read in part.

  “The goal of this wide outreach was to engage with athletes and hear their thoughts on existing and new opportunities to express their views at the Olympic Games as well as outside Games time. We want to amplify the voices of athletes and find more ways to support the values of the Olympic Games and what sport stands for. This consultation was a very important process for us and is part of the ongoing dialogue with the athlete community. We are delighted that the IOC EB fully supported our proposals.”

For years the Olympics has had mixed responses to athletes protesting.

In the 1968 Summer Olympics, bronze and gold track & field medalist Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested by lifting their fist to shine a light on racial injustice and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru back in 2019, Olympic fencer Race Imboden and hammer-thrower Gwen Berry were put on 12-month probation.

Imboden later tweeted “Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list” of issues that need to be addressed. followed by Berry, who added It was “too important to not say something.”

Both athletes are now eligible to compete in the Tokyo games, so it will be interesting to see how they will respond and if they will continue to protest despite the warning.

It will also be interesting to see if tennis champion and Japan native, Naomi Osaka will stick to the new IOC rules.

Osaka made headlines during the Wimbledon games by wearing a face mask bearing the name of a different African American who was killed by the police. Osaka wore 7 masks on 7 different days to show her support of the Black lives matter movement.

“I’m not sure what I would be able to do if I was in their position but I feel like I’m a vessel at this point, in order to spread awareness,” Osaka said. “It’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything that they need.”

Despite the efforts to promote unity by the athletes, the IOC says that the new rules are based on a survey that was conducted by 3500 athletes who agreed that the protests were a distraction.

“The recommendations are the result of an extensive qualitative and quantitative consultation process implemented by the IOC AC which started in June 2020 and involved over 3,500 athletes, representing 185 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and all 41 Olympic sports, and ensuring fully gender-equal representation.”

But the IOC says that it will allow the athletes to express their beliefs in other ways.

The IOC and the IOC Athletes’ Commission are fully supportive of the freedom of expression. This principle is included in the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration,”  the statement said.  “The IOC AC had clarified the existing opportunities for athletes to express their views at the Olympic Games, such as during press conferences and interviews, at team meetings as well as on digital or traditional media.”

Do you think that athletes should be penalized for protesting injustice? Tell us what you think in the comments below.