‘BLM’ apparel banned at the Tokyo Olympics

Athletes will not be permitted to wear 'BLM' branded gear on the field of play or during official ceremonies

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will be prohibited from wearing “Black Lives Matter” apparel at games and ceremonies this summer, as officials have confirmed the ban on protests and political messages, according to TMZ.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed its broad policy on no demonstrations on the field of play, during official ceremonies and at the podium two weeks ago, and the Associated Press reported this week that officials have now included “BLM” apparel to the list of banned items.

Image via Getty/Carl Court

Officials say that BLM slogans will be permitted at some parts of the Games, such as at press conferences, during interviews and at team meetings, however, engaging in BLM-branded messaging outside of these areas is grounds for punishment.

The IOC reported that the ban comes as result of a poll revealing a “majority” of the 3,500 athletes are in favor of strict rules against demonstrations.

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“A very clear majority of athletes said that they think it’s not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at the official ceremonies or at the podium,” said Kirsty Coventry, IOC Athletes’ Commission Chief.

“So our recommendation is to preserve the podium, field of play and official ceremonies from any kind of protest or demonstrations or acts perceived as such,” Coventry continued.

Kirsty Coventry, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission speaks during the XXIV ANOC General Assembly on October 17, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for ANOC)

“The goal of this wide outreach was to engage with athletes and hear their thoughts on existing and new opportunities to express their views at the Olympic Games as well as outside Games time,” said Coventry, according to CNN.

“We want to amplify the voices of athletes, and find more ways to support the values of the Olympic Games and what sport stands for. This consultation was a very important process for us and is part of the ongoing dialogue with the athlete community. We are delighted that the IOC [Executive Board] fully supported our proposals,” she continued.

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The kind of punishment to which rule-breaking athletes will be subject remains unclear at this time, but TMZ reports the IOC insists it will be determined on a case-by-case basis and that they would like to “come out with a range of different sanctions so everyone knows what everyone can and cannot do.”

Ben Crump, civil rights attorney and representative of the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, criticized the decision in a tweet.

“The Olympics will now BAN any athlete who wears a BLM shirt, kneels during the national anthem or raises a fist to oppose racism,” said Crump on Wednesday. “This sends the WRONG message about basic human rights & I urge the Olympic Committee to reverse this decision!”

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The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to commence on July 23 despite Japan’s new surge of COVID-19 cases. The city has responded by issuing a state of emergency that could extend to the end of May and has called for volunteer nurses and doctors to service the Games amid the pandemic, according to Complex.

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