Sat | Jan 22, 2022

Don’t silence athletes at Olympics

Samuda, Wilson want platform for athlete protest at Tokyo 2020 Games

Published:Sunday | April 25, 2021 | 12:29 AMAkino Ming - Staff Reporter
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While not opposing the International Olympic committee’s (IOC) decision to uphold its stance on athlete protest and political messages at the Games, Christopher Samuda, the president of the Jamaica Olympic Association, wants his parent body to...

While not opposing the International Olympic committee’s (IOC) decision to uphold its stance on athlete protest and political messages at the Games, Christopher Samuda, the president of the Jamaica Olympic Association, wants his parent body to provide a platform at the Games for athletes to fight social injustices facing society.

His comments came on the heels of the IOC’s ruling to not lift the ban on athletes protest and political messages at the Games last Wednesday, after a survey found that most competitors support upholding it.

“The right to protest is a right that must be recognised, but in all circumstances the right has to be expressed in a very responsible manner. So, the right to express at the Games should be done through a forum, so at the same time, it does not put the Games at risk, so that sponsors may not feel like their capital is at risk and pull out of the Games,” Samuda told The Sunday Gleaner.

“Whereas I recognised the right, I am very sensitive to the IOC, to the expression of that right and the risk that it might have to the Games. We support the right of the athletes to protest, we support and understand the rationale for that protest, but we maintain that the expression of that right has to be responsible. Therefore, we must organise a forum at the Games where issues of race, issues of inequity, can be fully and frankly discussed and arrive at an outcome from those meetings. We do not just want the right to protest without any meaningful change to the system and meaningful change to the infrastructure,” Samuda added.

RULE 50

Upholding Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at the Games, puts the IOC at odds with many athletes, as they have witnessed their counterparts in other sporting arenas express their frustration against racial injustices, by kneeling and the wearing of the Black Lives Matter message and their uniforms.

Maurice Wilson, who has served as a senior member of Jamaica’s athletics coaching panel at several Olympic Games, is baffled by the IOC’s decision to uphold Rule 50.

“The fact that black people would have done so well at the Olympic Games throughout its history and with the injustices that black people endure, I cannot understand why athletes are not allowed to protest for the world to remember what is happening to black people,” Wilson said. “This is a time when racial tensions are high. Racism is not decreasing; it is increasing, and so it is obvious that people have not recognised black people as equal human beings.”

Unlike athletes in the NBA, the English Premier League and even West Indies cricketers, who wore the Black Lives Matter logo and other racial injustices messages on their uniforms after George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020, Olympic athletes will be allowed to use more tame language.

The IOC-approved words on T-shirts and elsewhere in Tokyo are “peace, respect, solidarity, inclusion and equality”.

akino.ming@gleanerjm.com