US Olympic Committee Releases Guidelines; Allows Athletes To Raise Fists And Kneel During National Anthem

Following up on a decision previously made to allow Olympic athletes to “peacefully and respectfully” engage in demonstrations for racial and social justice, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee released new guidelines on Tuesday, delineating forms of protest that are “acceptable” in the 2021 Olympic trials.

The USOPC decided in December that athletes participating in 2020 Olympic trials “will not be sanctioned for ‘peacefully and respectfully’ demonstrating in support of social justice causes.” 

The committee planned to do away with guidelines effectively preventing “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at Olympic sites or during official ceremonies.

The USOPC released its updated guidelines on Tuesday, clearing the way for Olympic athletes to engage in protest. However, the policies do severely limit the options athletes have for demonstrating. 

The committee released a nine-page document offering guidance about the ‘facial and social demonstrations’ that will and won’t be allowed.

Athletes will be allowed to raise their fists or kneel during the national anthem, and athletes will be allowed to wear “hats or face masks” with specific political phrases like “Black Lives Matter,” or words like “equality” or “justice.”

However, in a letter to athletes, the USOPC makes it clear that it cannot “prevent … third parties from making statements or taking actions of their own, and that each Participant must make their own personal decision about the risks and benefits that may be involved.”

This year’s Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo, Japan.