The move comes as several athletes from an array of sports demonstrated their disdain for America, most recently U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who turned away from the American flag during the playing of the National Anthem after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics during trials in Oregon. Berry, who took part in an interview with CNN, was asked whether she would engage in protest at the Olympic Games in Japan and she responded, “We'll see … It depends on how I'm feeling. It depends on what I want to do in that moment, and what I want to do for my people in that moment.”
The relaxation of the rules does not give athletes permission to protest or demonstrate on the awards platform, during opening or closing ceremonies, in the Olympic village, and during competition. The new ruling does, however, give the athletes an opportunity to protest before the games begin, so long as it does not include “physical interference” of another athlete or cause harm to others. It also prevents demonstrations from occurring during the playing of another team's national anthem.
The IOC's change comes after it asked 3,500 athletes to provide their thoughts on political expression during the competition. According to the Washington Times, the “survey found that 70 percent of athletes were opposed to protests during those moments, while 67 percent disapproved of podium demonstrations.”
“The new guidelines are a result of our extensive consultation with the global athletes' community,” said IOC AC Chair Kirsty Coventry in a statement. “While the guidelines offer new opportunities for athletes to express themselves prior to the competition, they preserve the competitions on the Field of Play, the ceremonies, the victory ceremonies and the Olympic Village.
“This was the wish of a big majority of athletes in our global consultation,” Coventry added.
Chelsea Wolfe, a transgender athlete, BMX freestyle rider, and U.S. Olympic team alternate, is also expected to engage in protest at the event as he has previously said that his goal “is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.”
“My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium,” Wolfe wrote on Facebook in March of 2020, including a story detailing Trump's position on transgender women competing against biological females. “This is what they focus on during a pandemic. Hurting trans children.”
Wolfe dismissed the now-deleted post as being misconstrued as hatred of America, telling 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.”