January 24 – Players who defy Olympic rules by making political protests at the Tokyo Olympics this summer will be supported by their global union..
Earlier this month the International Olympic Committee announced a ban on athletes making any political statements during events or medal ceremonies “to avoid turning the Games into a political tool”.
But describing the ban as hypocritical, FIFPro’s new secretary general Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said that his members had played a key role in raising issues such as racism and gender equality and it would be “unacceptable” to sanction them.
“We feel very strongly that the players’ freedom of speech and the freedom to express themselves on political issues need to be protected,” Baer-Hoffmann, whose organisation represents 65,000 players, told agency reporters.
“We will certainly support any players who feel they want to express views and they want to be part of a social movement for change. If the IOC decides to discipline players on this occasion, we will certainly stand by them to defend them.”
“Their freedom of expression overrides any other interest that may be in play here.”
Megan Rapinoe, outspoken star of the United States women’s team who will be gold medal favourites in Tokyo provided they qualify, has already criticised the ban saying “we will not be silenced”.
Baer-Hoffmann said it was the players themselves who had highlighted ”fundamental debates” by speaking out.
”They are trailblazers but, on the one hand, they are being welcomed by people to take this forward and make sport appear as a change agent in society,” Baer-Hoffman said. ”And, on the other, now we have a hypocritical rule that says if you do it in our venues, we think this is a sanctionable offense. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
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