The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organizers at Tokyo 2020 have banned their social media teams from posting any pictures or content of Olympic athletes taking the knee at the upcoming Games, according to a report.
The Guardian reported that the message supposedly came from top brass on Tuesday evening, and had specific reference to the football match between Team GB’s women and Chile in Sapporo.
Broadcast live to millions around the world, both sides performed the gesture before kick-off. Players from the US, Sweden and New Zealand teams followed suit in their fixtures later on.
🚨 | NEW: The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers have banned their social media teams from posting pictures of athletes taking the knee at these Olympic GamesVia @guardian
— News For All (@NewsForAllUK) July 21, 2021
Yet not a single image from these protests was posted to the Tokyo 2020 official live blog, or on social media accounts across Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and the same applied to the IOC’s output.
A Tokyo 2020 insider allegedly told the Guardian how they found such a stance from the IOC odd given that the organization often celebrates iconic pictures of protests, such as the raising of the first from Tommie Smith and John Carlos against the unfair treatment of African-Americans in the US at the Mexico City 1968 Olympics.
The decision comes amid the IOC relaxing Rule 50 too, which previously forbid athletes from making “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
Peaceful protests are now allowed on the track and field, provided they are done without any disruption or offense caused to other competitors. Though it must be noted that sanctions are possible for protests performed on the podium when receiving medals.
Speaking after their match against Chile, which her side won 2-0, one of three Team GB captains Steph Houghton said that taking a knee had the backing of the entire squad.
“As players in Great Britain we’ve been taking the knee in club and international matches and we felt strongly as a group that we wanted to show support for those affected by discrimination and equality,” Houghton added.
“It was a proud moment because the Chile players took the knee too to show how united we are as a sport.”
Mark England, who is Team GB’s chief de mission, said they had been left “disgusted” by the racism suffered by a trio of black and mixed-race England stars for missing penalties in the recent Euro 2020 final shootout loss to Italy.
“Certainly the women’s football team here feel very strongly about the online abuse and about the racism, Kick It Out campaign and about taking a knee, and we absolutely support them in that,” England explained.
The IOC has thus far refused to comment directly on The Guardian’s story when probed, although a spokesperson cryptically offered that “the signal is distributed to all the broadcasters around the world with a huge TV audience.”
At a press conference, IOC president Thomas Bach gave a short and sweet response when probed on the women’s footballers taking the knee.
“It is allowed,” he pointed out. “It is no violation of Rule 50. That is expressively what is allowed in these guidelines.”