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City Council supports athletes' free expression for human rights

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently reaffirmed a ban on political, social, or ideological protest at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, including wearing apparel that says "Black Lives Matter" or taking a knee to protest police violence and racial injustice.

The Olympic Games have a long and rich history of mixing athletics with political protest, from the 1968 Mexico City Games, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two American track and field stars, raised a clenched fist on the podium in protest against violence against Black Americans; to the 2000 Sydney Games, when Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman took a victory lap celebrating Aboriginal sovereignty; to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, when Ethiopian track and field star Feyisa Lilesa condemned human rights abuses.

In 2020, a letter from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s Athletes Advisory Committee denounced the prohibition on political expression the “oppression of athletes” and called on the IOC to recognize athletes’ freedom of expression.

This week, the Council adopted a resolution in support of athletes’ free expression to recognize that black lives matter. The Council believes that athletes who fight for human rights and justice should be celebrated and have a right to show up to work as the fullest expression of themselves. The Council calls upon the International Olympic Committee to amend Rule 50 and recognize athletes’ full freedom of expression.

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