Tokyo Olympics officials ban social media teams from posting photos of athletes kneeling: report

The US and British soccer teams were among those who knelt before their games

The Olympics have just started, but officials already appear to be embroiled in controversy.

The Games’ opening soccer matches started with kneeling protests during the Britain-Chile and U.S-Sweden games. But curiously, it appeared no photos of players protesting before kickoff were posted on social media from official channels.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 organizers reportedly prohibited their social media channels from posting photos of athletes kneeling in protests, The Guardian reported Wednesday. No photos of the protests appeared on any social media pages, according to the paper.


An insider told The Guardian that the message came from high-ranking officials with a specific reference to the Britain-Chile match. Britain’s soccer players vowed to kneel in protest of racism, inequality and discrimination before their Olympic matches and followed through on the declaration.

"It is allowed," IOC president Thomas Bach said at a Wednesday press conference when asked about the protests. "It is no violation of Rule 50. That is expressively what is allowed in these guidelines."

Team GB didn't have an additional comment on the matter.

Team GB's chef de mission, Mark England, told The Guardian the women's team was "disgusted" about the racial buse England players received after their Euro 2020 loss to Italy.

"Certainly the women’s football team here feel very strongly about the online abuse and about the racism, Kick It Out campaign and about taking a knee, and we absolutely support them in that," England.

The IOC said in a statement to Fox News: "The coverage from the Olympic Games, including the moments before the competition, is to its fullest extent available to the Rights Holding Broadcasters. They can use it as they deem fit. Through this channel the footage can reach hundreds of millions of people in all territories of the world. In addition, the IOC is covering the Games on its owned and operated platforms and such moments will be included as well."

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."

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.