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The International Olympic Committee is cracking down on political protests at the 2020 Olympic Games — so don't expect to see many, if any, athletes taking a knee.
The IOC published new guidelines Thursday, that prohibits athletes from showing up with political displays like armbands or signs, blocking any gestures of a political nature, like kneeling during anthems. Athletes must follow all protocol at Olympic ceremonies and while participating in the Games, or risk being reprimanded.
"We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world,” the governing body said. "This is why it is important, on both a personal and global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations."
The IOC was very vague when it came time to explain what punishment athletes would face should they decide to protest anyway. The organization said that "disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis."
The Olympics have long been a stage for athletes to protest for causes they believe in. American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested at the 1968 Mexico City Games by raising their gloved fists in one of the most iconic images of the civil rights movement.
"People could not understand. It was not about the flag. It was a chance to heighten the idea that we must eradicate stupidity called racism," Smith told CBS News back in 2016. "The head bowed represented prayer, or faith. The feet with the pants rolled represented poverty. One of the most important things was making a statement without saying a word."
But more recently, athletes have used global sporting events for other protests.
Olympic fencing medalist Race Imboden knelt in protest of racism and the spreading of hate by President Donald Trump at the Pan American Games in 2019.
"This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home Gold and Bronze,” the athlete tweeted at the time. “My pride, however, has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart. Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list."
Tokyo will host the XXXII Olympic Summer Games starting July 24.