The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Rule 50 is a serious attempt to silence athletes at all Olympic- and Paralympic-affiliated sporting events. The most frustrating thing about this is the rule’s actual existence. Rule 50 is hypocritical at its core; it denies athletes the ability to freely speak and to hold any position of power in their own revenue-generating space. The IOC states the reason they silence athletes is to “remain free from advertising/publicity or any kind of demonstrations or political, religious and racial propaganda.”
The problem with this is that it is the athletes’ job to compete on national and international stages. There are no places where cameras or fans can see us, except in our place of competition. Just like any other person on this earth, athletes deserve a safe space to protest if they feel the need to. For example, teachers and doctors have protested for better pay and fewer hours at their places of employment. To add injury to insult, the NBA, WNBA, NFL, and MBL have all allowed their athletes the opportunity to protest in a tasteful, respectable manner. They’ve painted their courts, given commercial advertising time to lift athletes’ voices, allowed alterations to their jerseys and shoes; even the NCAA recently announced an opportunity for athletes to wear social justice patches on their uniforms.
Why are Olympic athletes unable to do the same thing? How is this fair?
Enough is enough.