The International Olympic Committee published guidelines on Thursday that ban kneeling and certain forms of political protest during ceremonies at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Games. According to The Associated Press, athletes are free to express political opinions in official media settings and on their social media accounts—but they cannot take a political stance in an official playing field. “We needed clarity and they wanted clarity on the rules,” chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Kirsty Coventry, said of the three-page guidelines. “The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes.” Athletes who break any of the IOC's rules at the 2020 games, which start in July, will face punishment from the IOC, their sport's governing body, and the national Olympic body.
The release of the guidelines reportedly comes after two U.S. athletes were punished following their Pan-American Games podium protest in August. The athletes, fencer Race Imboden and hammer-thrower Gwen Berry, both raised their fists, and the U.S. Olympic Committee put them on a year-long probation.