Not all Olympic protests are created equal. During her floor routine, Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado
raised her fist and took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter. Alvarado’s act, which was incorporated into her routine, is being called a “loophole” to the IOC’s rules against protesting. Originally, the organization had banned protesting altogether. After public pressure, they loosened their rules to allow athletes to “express their views,” but only within the IOC’s rigid guidelines. So, protesting on the field of play before the start of competition is OK — like the U.S. women’s soccer team kneeling
before kickoff of their game against New Zealand last weekend — but what Berry did on the podium isn’t (Berry and other U.S. Olympians have signed a petition asking the IOC
to allow them to demonstrate on medal podiums). Technically, Alvarado’s fist in the air during her routine isn’t allowed, but since gymnasts can essentially do whatever movements they want during floor exercises, she cannot be penalized. The rules on protesting also say that gestures need to be “consistent with the principles of Olympism
,” not “targeted against ‘people, countries, [organizations] and/or their dignity,’” and not “disruptive,” according to NPR.
But who gets to decide what is disruptive? The point of protest is to disrupt to bring about change. And when it comes to the IOC and the Olympics’ governing bodies, who dish out discipline disproportionately to athletes of colour, it’s ironic that they get to deem what forms of protest are more “dignified” than others.