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Racial and social justice demonstrations allowed at U.S. Olympic, Paralympic Trials


at the United States Olympic Training Center on May 14, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Tom Pennington

Racial and social justice demonstrations that are respectful, including raising a fist or kneeling on a podium or start line, will be allowed at upcoming U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Trials events.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee outlined those demonstrations on Tuesday after collaboration with the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice that was formed last year.

Demonstrations that are allowed are ones “aimed at advancing racial and social justice or promoting the human dignity of individuals or groups that have historically been underrepresented, minoritized, or marginalized in their respective societal context.”

Examples of demonstrations by Team USA athletes that will be permitted by the USOPC at Trials:

  • Wearing a hat with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Trans Lives Matter” or words such “equality” or “respect”
  • Orally advocating for equity/equal rights for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals, or other historically underrepresented, marginalized or minoritized populations
  • Holding up one’s fist at the start line or on the podium
  • Kneeling on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem

The USOPC also defined “impermissible elements” that violate USOPC rules -- “expressions that advocate against other people, their dignity, or their rights.”

“This may include hate speech, racist propaganda, or threatening, abusive, or discriminatory remarks,” according to the guidance. “Additionally, acts that physically impede events at the Trials, cause physical harm to others and/or to property, or violate applicable laws are impermissible elements.”

The next U.S. Olympic Trials event is Friday and Saturday -- Wrestling Trials in Fort Worth, Texas.

Last August, the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice, mostly comprising U.S. Olympians and Paralympians, was formed to “address the rules and systems in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements that create barriers to progress,” aiming to end social injustice and cultivate change.

In December, the USOPC announced it will not sanction athletes for “peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice” at the Olympics and Paralympics.

The International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission has been expected to draft a proposal before the Tokyo Games to explore how athletes can express themselves at the Games while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

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