Social Media Accounts Banned From Sharing Images Of Olympic Athletes Taking The Knee

by : Niamh Shackleton on :
Social Media Accounts Banned From Sharing Images Of Olympic Athletes Taking The KneeShutterstock/PA

Tokyo Olympics’ social media teams have been prohibited from sharing photos of Olympians taking the knee.

An official high up in the Olympics authority reportedly gave these instructions on Tuesday, July 20, the day before Team GB’s women’s football team took the knee before their game for the first time in Olympic history.


Both Team GB and their opponents Chile made the gesture in a protest against racism and, while it wasn’t shared on any of the Olympics’ social media pages, the moment was shown on live TV.

Goalkeeper Carly Telford expressed hopes that others would follow in their footsteps, and players from New Zealand, the US and Sweden’s football teams later went on to do so.

Goalkeeper Carly Telford (PA)PA Images

Speaking after the match against Chile, England captain Steph Houghton said the decision was supported by the whole squad: ‘As players in Great Britain we’ve been taking the knee in club and international matches and we felt strongly as a group that we wanted to show support for those affected by discrimination and equality. It was a proud moment because the Chile players took the knee too to show how united we are as sport.’


A source told The Guardian the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) stance on not sharing the photos was ‘odd’ as the sporting body previously celebrated iconic protests at the Olympics. In the past, it has shared images of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics to protest against the unfair treatment of Black people in the US.

Tuesday’s decision also comes after the IOC relaxed Rule 50; a rule under the Olympic Charter which prevents all athletes from taking part in any ‘demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda’.

Statue on campus of the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games San Jose State University Student-Athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos (PA)PA Images

The IOC says this rule is in place to ‘keep the field of play, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations’, BBC Newsround reports.


The IOC added:

We believe the focus at the Olympic Games must remain on athletes’ performances, sport and the international unity and harmony that the Olympic Movement seeks to advance.


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However, the IOC now allows peaceful protests on the field of play, as long as it’s done so in a respectful manner and doesn’t cause disruption.

The change comes after the committee conducted a survey last year that showed the majority of athletes felt the rule should remain.

Olympic rings (PA Images)PA Images

More than 3,500 people took part in the survey, in which 67% said they thought other competitors shouldn’t demonstrate or express their views on the Olympic podium. A further 70% said they didn’t think athletes should be allowed to demonstrate or protest on-field and during official ceremonies.

This survey is thought to have been conducted prior to the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, however, which sparked a global support for the Black Lives Matter movement. After the vote, several sporting bodies announced that they were going to continue to advocate for athletes’ freedom of speech.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Olympics, Protests, Social Media, Sport, Tokyo 2020


The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    Tokyo 2020 social media teams banned from showing athletes taking the knee

  2. BBC Newsround

    Rule 50: A history of protests at the Olympic games