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USOPC to Allow Athletes to Kneel, Raise Fists During Anthem at Olympic Trials

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2021

People wearing a face mask walk by the Olympic rings outside Japan Olympic Museum near National Stadium, where opening ceremony and many other events are planned for postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee provided further details Tuesday about acceptable forms of protest during the U.S. Olympic Trials after it announced in December athletes wouldn't be punished for advocating causes related to social justice.

Eddie Pells of the Associated Press reported raising a fist, kneeling during the national anthem and wearing hats or face masks with phrases such as "Black Lives Matter" or words such as "equality" or "justice" will be allowed.

Anti-Defamation League-defined hate symbols will be barred, and athletes aren't allowed to impact the competition in any way in order to protest, like laying down on the track during a race.

The formal guidance (PDF document) noted other forms of protest "outside the scope" of either racial or social justice are still banned and could lead to punishment for the USOPC's rules application team. Any decision can be appealed to the trials administrative board.

In addition, the USOPC alerted athletes it can't guarantee they won't face punishment from other governing bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, for protests during the Olympics in Tokyo. The IOC is in the process of determining the fate of Rule 50, which is related to protests at the Games, per Pells.

"While we support your right to demonstrate peacefully in support of racial and social justice, we can’t control the actions others may take in response," USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote.

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Hirshland added Tuesday's update should provide "latitude for athletes to express their personal perspectives on racial and social justice in a respectful way, and without fear of sanction from the USOPC."

Trials across numerous sports will take place over the next three months to finalize the United States Olympic and Paralympic teams that are going to represent the country in Tokyo this summer.

A decision from the IOC about how to handle protests throughout the Games is expected next month, per Pells.

The Olympics Games' opening ceremony will take place July 23 and the event will run through Aug. 8. The Paralympic Games then run Aug. 24 through Sept. 5.