L.A. Olympic officials ask IOC to allow athlete protests
The head organizer for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles has asked Olympic leaders for a rule change that would allow athletes to protest against racism either from the podium or at other times during the international competition.
Casey Wasserman, chairman of the LA28 organizing committee, made his request in a letter delivered to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, in mid-June.
“Sport is not separate or clear of racism; it is a microcosm of our world where racism exists,” Wasserman wrote. “I urge you to allow and encourage athletes to advocate against racism anywhere they can, including on and off the field of play.”
At issue is Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
Earlier this year, the IOC issued new guidelines with a “no-no” list that included signs, arm bands and hand gestures. They prohibited taking a knee during the anthem or otherwise failing to adhere to strict protocol during the medal ceremony.
IOC President Thomas Bach worries about a possible boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics because of China’s human rights record.
In his letter, which was first reported by Sportico.com, Wasserman wrote: “Being antiracist is not political. Being antiracist is central to our core human principles and, therefore, an embodiment of everything the Olympic Games symbolizes.”
The IOC could not be reached for response. An LA 2028 spokeswoman declined to comment.
The right to protest has become a topic of debate throughout sports in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Athletes in the NBA and Major League Baseball have knelt before games but, within the Olympic movement, the issue has been set aside during the coronavirus outbreak, , which forced the Tokyo Games to be postponed until the summer of 2021.
Wasserman sent his letter to the IOC on Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. He suggested to Bach the time has come to modify Rule 50.
“It is up to all of us to enact change and create a future we want to see,” he wrote. “I am counting on your leadership to make the right decision.”
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