- Title: Games of protest? Muhammad Ali Center calls for loosening of IOC's Rule 50
- Date: 24th July 2021
- Summary: LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, UNITED STATES (JULY 23, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) MUHAMMAD ALI CENTER'S INTERIM PRESIDENT AND CEO, LAURA DOUGLAS, SAYING ON TOMMIE SMITH AND JOHN CARLOS: "Both of those athletes had been through a period of time in the US where there were assassinations, where there were riots and where they themselves were concerned about poverty, the poverty in the communities that they came from. And to expect that they would have an opportunity to be on a world stage like that and not highlight the things that were important to them, was a little, I think short sided. As I said earlier, athletics brings people together, but more than that, an athlete is a whole person and many athletes struggle because of their background and experience to get to the Olympics, to get to an award owing them. And to expect them to stand there and not acknowledge some things that are important to them or to acknowledge the trials and tribulations they have been through, I think it's a little bit short sighted. And inhumane frankly."
- Embargoed: 7th August 2021 10:05
- Keywords: IOC Muhammad Ali Center Olympics Rule 50 protest
- Location: VARIOUS LOCATIONS
- City: VARIOUS LOCATIONS
- Country: USA
- Topics: Olympics,Sport,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA004EN77WP3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Opposition to the International Olympic Committee's ban on podium protests at the Tokyo Games has intensified with more than 150 athletes, academics and social justice advocates signing an open letter demanding changes to Rule 50.
The IOC earlier this month relaxed the rule, which had previously forbidden athletes from any protests but now allows them to make gestures on the field provided they do so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors.
However, there is still a threat of sanctions if protests are made on the podium during the Games.
The letter said it was adding "a collective voice" to calls for amendments to Rule 50.
Among the signatories were Black U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were expelled from the 1968 Olympics after they bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists on the podium to protest racial inequality.
The Muhammad Ali Center also signed the letter, with the late boxing world and Olympic champion an iconic figure in world of athlete activism.
The letter called for no sanctions to be imposed on athletes who protested on the podium in Japan and demanded a review of Rule 50 after next year's Beijing Winter Olympics.
"It's inhumane, the expectation that an athlete does not have a right to be a whole person, and that they somehow have to divorce themselves from ideas, concepts that are important to them," the Muhammad Ali Center's interim president told Reuters TV.
"It's a denial of their humanity. It's difficult to imagine that you're in this world-wide venue where millions of eyes are on you, and you have an opportunity to express, to give voice to something that is critically important to you and the people that you care about, but you are prohibited from doing that. That does not make sense."
One of the academics behind the letter, Yannick Kluch, an assistant professor of communication and media at Rowan University, added: "It combines the voices of those fighters for social justice on the forefront of social justice work, and the academics who have been studying these issues for decades, who have been looking into how does global sport reinforce inequities, how does global sport reinforce social injustice, racial injustice and what we can we do as producers of knowledge, as people looking at those processes to help turn the needles towards justice."
In a written statement, the IOC said: "The IOC acknowledges receipt of the letter. Rule 50.2 provides a framework to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games. While asking for more opportunities for athlete expression during the Olympic Games, global athlete representatives expressed their support for keeping the podium, the field of play and the ceremonies free from any form of protest. The IOC Executive Board (IOC EB) accepted all the recommendations."
(Production: Iain Axon and Peter Bullock)
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