In a surprising turn, the International Olympic Committee and the Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have banned their social media teams from taking pictures of athletes taking a knee.
According to reports by The Guardian, the decision was taken by officials high up the ladder, hours before the kickoff between Great Britain and Chile on Wednesday. The powerful image of both teams taking a knee to protest against racism and hatred spewed against athletes online was captured live on TV and was followed by teams from the United States, Sweden and New Zealand.
However, the powerful image which resonated with the people watching was not showcased in any of the official Olympics or the IOC's social media channels. The move was odd since the IOC has always taken pride in celebrating iconic pictures of protest, such as Tommie Smith raising his fist to shine a light on the systemic racism and oppression faced by the black community in the United States during the 1968 Olympics.
The decision also comes on the heels of the IOC relaxing Rule 50, which previously had banned athletes from making a demonstration or spreading political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas. Athletes are now allowed to protest peacefully, keeping in mind to not disrupt events, and respect their competitors. However, demonstrations on the medal podium will still attract severe sanctions.
Team Great Britain's Chef De Mission, Mark England, said that their players were disgusted at the racist comments spewed against stars from the men's team such as Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho. He was quoted saying that, "Certainly the women's football team here feel very strongly about the online abuse and the racism, Kick It Out campaign and about taking a knee, and we absolutely support them in that," reports The Guardian.
The President of the IOC, Thomas Bach, addressed the issue by saying that, "It is allowed, It is no violation of Rule 50. That is expressively what is allowed in these guidelines.".