Olympic protests 'will be included' in social media posts after all, IOC says

Initial reports said a high-ranking IOC official barred the channels from posting kneeling photos

The International Olympic Committee reversed course Thursday and will allow photos of athletes protesting on the Tokyo 2020 social media channel and highlight reels in the future.

The U.S. women’s soccer team and four other squads knelt before their matches on Wednesday. The Guardian reported that Olympic social media teams were banned from posting and photos of the athletes protesting.

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"The IOC is covering the Games on its owned and operated platforms and such moments will be included as well," the IOC said Thursday.

Earlier in July, the IOC extended more guidelines on athletes’ freedom of expression at the Tokyo Games but warned against political gestures during official ceremonies, competitions and in the Olympic Village.

The IOC said the guidelines were approved by the Executive Board of the IOC as part of the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s (IOC AC) recommendations. The IOC said the guidelines offer "further clarity" on the "wide range of opportunities available to them to express their views."

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Athletes will be allowed to express a political gesture prior to the start of a competition or during their introduction or the introduction of the team. However, the gesture must meet four different criteria.

The gesture has to be consistent with the "Fundamental Principles of Olympism," cannot be targeted at a certain people, country or organization, cannot be disruptive and cannot already be banned by a nation’s own Olympic committee or federation.

"When expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes. It should be recognized that any behavior and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence on any basis whatsoever is contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism," the IOC said.

If an athlete breaks the guidelines, the IOC laid out possible discipline. The IOC could have disciplinary hearings, in which the athlete would be required to provide full transparency about their actions.

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Rule 50 has come under fire in the days leading up to the Olympics. More than 150 signees sent a letter to the organization demanding a change in the rule.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.