U.S. Olympic Committee Will Allow Kneeling, Raised Fists at Trial Competitions

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee will not sanction athletes for demonstrations related to racial and social justice at the upcoming Olympic trials.

In a document released Tuesday, the committee outlined the types of actions that will be permitted, including kneeling during the National Anthem and raising a fist at the starting line or on the podium.

In addition to actionably demonstrating support for social justice, the USOPC said that athletes competing in the Olympic trials will be allowed to wear hats or face coverings with phrases including "Black Lives Matter," "Trans Lives Matter," "equality" and "respect."

Also permitted is "orally advocating for equity/equal rights for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals, or other historically underrepresented, marginalized or minoritized populations," the committee said.

Actions that impede the trials, or any use of hate speech, are not permitted, the committee said.

The USOPC also noted that engaging in any other demonstrations that advocate "for something outside the scope of a racial or social justice cause" will be grounds for a sanction.

In December, the USOPC announced that it would no longer enforce the longstanding and controversial Rule 50 of the IOC Olympic Charter, which prohibited protests inside competition venues at the Olympic games, according to the Associated Press.

In a letter Tuesday, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland reminded athletes that while the U.S. has decided not to sanction athletes for demonstrations at the trials, the Tokyo Games and beyond, "we can't control the actions others may take in response."

"I have confidence you'll make the best decision for you, your sport and your fellow competitors," she wrote.  

The Tokyo Summer Olympics were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are expected to begin on July 23.

Last month, the IOC published the first of its official Tokyo 2020 Playbooks that outline rules and regulations that will be put into place at the Games — including a ban on physical touch.

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Under the new rules, athletes and officials must wear a face mask "at all times" unless they are sleeping, eating, or at least six feet away from others while outside. Physical contact, such as hugs, handshakes, and high-fives, should also be avoided, the playbook states.

In addition, athletes and officials will not be able to use public transportation without permission. Athletes are also barred from visiting venues as spectators.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.

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