An open letter to IOC & IPC leadership
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More than 150 signatories have put their support behind an open letter calling on the IOC and IPC to amend their rules around political demonstrations at the Games.

More than 150 experts on the intersection of human rights, social justice, and sport across all five continents are issuing a call to the leadership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to change their course on IOC Rule 50 and IPC Section 2.2, respectively. The letter adds to global collective efforts calling for amendments to IOC Rule 50/IPC Section 2.2 to demonstrate a commitment to human rights, racial justice, and social inclusion in the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

In addition to the 150 signatories representing various academic disciplines, cultural contexts, and sport industry expertise, the letter is supported by more than 20 organizations committed to athlete empowerment, human rights, and utilizing the power of sport for positive social change, including the Muhammad Ali Center, the Australia Human Rights Institute, Global Athlete, Athlete Ally, and The Olympism Project. The letter is also endorsed by a group of current and former Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

As a call for leadership that centers a commitment to human rights and provides all athletes with human dignity and fundamental human rights, the letter asks the IOC/IPC, IOC Athletes Commission, and IPC Athletes Council to do the following:

  1. For the Tokyo and Beijing Games, refrain from imposing sanctions on athletes protesting and demonstrating in accordance with internationally-recognized human rights frameworks in any Olympic/Paralympic sites, venues or other areas – including the podium. These frameworks protect protests in support of racial and social justice (e.g., kneeling, raising one’s fist). They do not protect hate speech or protests/demonstrations discriminatory in nature.
  2. Upon conclusion of the Beijing Games, commit to a comprehensive review of IOC Rule 50/IPC Section 2.2 in collaboration with the IOC Advisory Committee on Human Rights and independent human rights experts to align the rule with internationally-recognized human rights frameworks, as outlined in the letter. This review should pay close attention to the wording used in IOC Rule 50/IPC Section 2.2, particularly to the use of “racial propaganda” in this context. We recommend removing this language from the rules.
  3. Amend the Athletes’ Rights & Responsibilities Declaration in accordance with internationally-recognized human rights frameworks, as outlined in the letter.
  4. Adopt an Eighth Principle of Olympism focused specifically on human rights (see the October 2019 proposal of Athletes CAN, Athletes Germany, Global Athlete, the New Zealand Athletes Federation, and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Athletes Advisory Council).

The full-length letter, including a list of signatories, supporting organizations, and athlete supporters, can be accessed here.

If you would like to add your signature to the letter, please fill out this form.

For questions or inquiries, please contact Dr. Yannick Kluch (Virginia Commonwealth University) at [email protected], Eli Wolff (Power of Sport Lab) at [email protected], and Erin Herbert (Muhammad Ali Center) at [email protected].

  • This article was originally published on the Muhammad Ali Centre website.


Director, Power of Sport Lab