Sport Rules “Should Never Supersede Human Rights”, Says Global Athlete

2020-08-29 Reading Time: 2 minutes
Unstable: how can athletes get their point across peacefully if sports rules sit above human rights laws? Photo by Craig Lord

Global Athlete has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission to abandon its “inadequate” Consultation on Athlete Demonstrations. Instead, the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee should “immediately rescind” Olympic Charter Rule 50.2 on the grounds that it is “incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

The Global Athlete Statement in Full:

28 August 2020:  In the past two days athletes in the NBA, WNBA, MLS, MLB, NHL and ATP/WTA have shown yet again that some issues are bigger than sport. By refusing to compete in their sports in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, these athletes have placed equity and social justice above their athletic careers. They are exercising their universal right to freedom of expression and will not have their speech curtailed by sporting administrators. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) must take note of the rights of these athletes to speak and act publicly in support of social justice and acknowledge that all athletes have the same rights, including at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Olympic Charter Rule 50.2 must be rescinded. Any replacement rule restricting athlete speech must align with international human rights law and be led by human rights experts.

The IOC Athletes’ Commission (IOC AC) Consultation on Athlete Demonstrations is an inadequate response to the current moment. Global Athlete has worked with an independent social science and marketing research expert to analyze recent surveys conducted by athlete groups. The expert indicated that the survey methodologies and subsequent reporting are flawed and are not in line with research best practice. Consequently, the results may be unreliable or of little value in attempting to draw conclusions about athlete views on demonstrations at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Because athlete groups do not have the independence or professional support to rigorously survey their athletes and because Rule 50.2 is incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a consultation with athletes is not the way to address Rule 50.2. Global Athlete has worked with human rights experts on the topic of freedom of expression at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Expert opinions such as these must guide any replacement to Rule 50.2.

The professional athletes in the leagues listed above have employer/employee relationships with the administrators who regulate their sports. The IOC and IPC have steadfastly avoided any such relationship with their athletes and have refused to compensate athletes for participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Consequently, the IOC and IPC should have less, not more, power than the professional leagues to regulate athlete speech during competition or on podiums.

Therefore, we call on the IOC Athletes’ Commission to abandon the Consultation on Athlete Demonstrations and on the IOC and IPC to immediately rescind Rule 50.2.

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