IOC Says It’s Up to Athletes’ Groups to Decide on Games Protests


(Bloomberg) -- International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that it’s up to athletes’ representatives, not him or the IOC, to decide whether athletes should have the right to protest on the winner’s podium at future Games.

“It would not be fair if I now make a statement, and give directions or instructions in this respect,” Bach told reporters Wednesday in a teleconference. He said he was refraining from commenting so as to not pre-empt in any way consultations that athletes groups will be having in the coming months.

“We are very clear in our position against any kind of discrimination and against racism,” and support athletes making “dignified” use of their rights to free speech, Bach continued. He declined to comment specifically on what he or the IOC would think of someone choosing to kneel at a medal ceremony.

Olympic Games have been the setting for past protests, most notably when American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved salutes after being awarded the gold and bronze medals respectively at the 1968 Mexico City Games to protest racism in the U.S.

More recently, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the singing of the American national anthem saw him ostracized by the National Football League. Commissioner Roger Goodell reversed his position last week in the wake of nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bach was speaking after the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics, postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, said they will be scaling back next summer’s games.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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