Olympic athletes promised legal support if they protest

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FILE - In this Oct. 16, 1968 file photo, U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos raise their gloved fists after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Athletes who make political or social justice protest at the Tokyo Olympics were promised legal support Thursday April 22, 2021, by a global union and an activist group in Germany. The pledges came one day after the International Olympic Committee confirmed its long-standing ban on demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda on the field of play, medal podiums or official ceremonies. (AP Photo/File)

GENEVA – Athletes who make political or social justice protests at the Tokyo Olympics were promised legal support Thursday by a global union and an activist group in Germany.

The pledges came one day after the International Olympic Committee confirmed its long-standing ban on “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” on the field of play, medal podiums or official ceremonies.

Raising a fist or kneeling for a national anthem could lead to punishment from the IOC. The Olympic body’s legal commission should clarify what kind of punishment before this year's games, which open on July 23.

The IOC also said that slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” will not be allowed on athlete apparel at Olympic venues, though it approved using the words “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality” on T-shirts.

The IOC’s athletes’ commission cited support to uphold Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter from more than two-thirds of about 3,500 replies from consulting athlete groups.

“This is precisely the outcome we expected,” said Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association union. “The Olympic movement doesn’t understand its own history better than the athletes.”

Speaking to The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Australia, Schwab said “Any athlete sanctioned at the Tokyo Olympics will have the full backing of the World Players.”

The independent group representing German athletes pledged legal backing for its national team.