Republicans tell Olympic athletes protesting flag at Tokyo games: ‘No kind of demonstration is permitted’

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Gwen Berry (L) turns away from US flag during the national anthem on day nine of the 2020 US Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon (Getty Images)
Gwen Berry (L) turns away from US flag during the national anthem on day nine of the 2020 US Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon (Getty Images)

Just under 40 Republican lawmakers have written to the US Olympic Committee to express concerns about the possibility of American athletes staging political protests at the Summer Games in Tokyo.

The representatives urged the USOC to remind competitors to obey Rule 50 of the International Olympic Committee charter which bans political expression by athletes during the games.

Fox News reports that the letter to US Olympic and Paralympic Committee Chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland was signed by 39 members of Congress and specifically singled out hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who turned away during the national anthem at trials in June.

Ms Berry also held up a T-shirt with the slogan “Activist Athlete”.

“We are deeply concerned by the growing trend of American athletes taking advantage of the international platform afforded by the Olympic games to perpetuate divisive, hateful, and anti-American ideologies,” the letter reads.

Among those who signed were representatives Dan Crenshaw of Texas, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Jim Banks of Indiana, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

The lawmakers also singled out BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe, who is attending the Olympics as an alternate. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Ms Wolfe declared that she wanted to win at the Tokyo Games so that she could “burn a US flag on the podium”.

She has since told Fox News: “Anyone who thinks that I don’t care about the United States is sorely mistaken.”

“One of the reasons why I work so hard to represent the United States in international competition is to show the world that this country has morals and values, that it’s not all of the bad things that we’re known for,” Ms Wolfe added.

The Republican lawmakers conclude their letter by saying: “It is our hope that members of the US Olympic Team will stop abusing their platform to spout shameful anti-American rhetoric, and that all athletes representing the United States of America at the Olympic games this summer will do so proudly and patriotically.”

According to Article 50 of the Olympic charter: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

IOC President Thomas Bach reiterated and defended the rule in January 2020 issued specific guidelines regarding protests at the games.

Mr Bach emphasised the neutrality of the games saying that it is undermined when used as a stage for any agenda no matter how legitimate it may be.

While in-person protests during anthems are considered as “divisive disruption” and may result in disciplinary action, athletes are permitted to post opinions on social media.

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