IOC Confirms Athletes May Not Kneel or Protest at Olympic Venues

Athletes can still protest and express political stances in official media settings and social media.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released a three page document clarifying Rule 50 of the International Olympic Charter regarding “advertising, demonstrations, and propaganda”.

Athletes will be prohibited from demonstrating or protesting in any Olympic venue.

Rule 50 states:

“No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Until now, it was not necessarily clear as to what could be deemed a violation of Rule 50 or what is considered an “Olympic venue”. The new guidelines lay out where athletes are and are not allowed to express political views, examples of what demonstrations are outlawed — specifically noting hand gestures and kneeling — and what will happen if an athlete fails to respect the policy.

Athletes will still be permitted to express their political views at official media settings and on social media.


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American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

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According to the guidelines:

“It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.”

The following are considered “Olympic venues”:

  • On the field of play.
  • In the Olympic Village.
  • During Olympic medal ceremonies.
  • During the Opening, Closing, and other official Ceremonies.

Kirsty Coventry is an Olympic gold medalist in swimming and Zimbabwe’s sports minister. She is also the chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission which oversaw the new guidelines. She told the Associated Press:

“We needed clarity and they wanted clarity on the rules. The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes.”

The clarification of Rule 50 came after two American athletes were put on twelve months probation for their protests during the Pan-American Games in August in Lima, Peru — fencer Race Imboden kneeled and hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised a fist.

Feature image from GQ Australia’s Instagram page: @gqaustralia