USOPC Looks Into Relaxing Anti-Protest Rules

By Ben Hamill - June 12 2020

USOPC Looks Into Relaxing Anti-Protest Rules

All people – including professional Olympic and Paralympic athletes – should have more freedom to protest at Olympic events. This according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which committee has now created an athlete group that will investigate the possibility of loosening some or even all restrictions currently placed on protests at the games.

The formation of the group is according to a social media post tweeted by committee CEO Sarah Hirshland, a response to the tragic death of George Floyd last month, as well as the protests that followed his inhumane death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident, died on May 25 following a white police officer’s action of having pressed a knee to the back of Floyd’s neck while holding down the handcuffed arrestee. A video that instantly went viral on social media showed a clearly suffocating George Floyd saying how he wasn’t able to breathe.

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A Sudden Change Of Heart

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has up until recently continuously cited the International Olympic Committee’s own banning of inside-the-lines protests at Olympic events, namely IOC Rule 50, as the reason behind its own decision to bar all protests at games. The IOC did in fact earlier this year emphasise yet again its support of Rule 50 and has not yet commented any which way on any aspect of the rule since the death of Floyd.

The USOPC wasted no time declaring a stance of solidarity with black professional athletes. The statement, which was issued late last week, was however not received with equal enthusiasm the industry over and attracted criticism from several well-known athletes. A notable voice of criticism was that of Gwen Berry, the Olympic athlete currently serving a 12-month probation penalty period for having raised her fist whilst appearing on the medals stand at last year’s Pan Am Games.

Conflicting Voices

Various athletes, Berry not excluded, proceeded to challenge the show of solidarity, asking whether the committee really cared about athletes, or actually only about their sponsors. This backlash was what had in all likelihood prompted the USOPC toward the decision to review its support of the IOC’s anti-protests rule.

But the decision also attracted a response of an entirely different nature. The intention was hugely criticized by athletes’ rights group Global Athlete. Last-mentioned claimed the committee’s decision to form the athlete-led pro-protests group practically undermined the USOPC’s own athlete advisory committee.

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