A sculpture depicts the raised-fist protest by U.S. track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, as part of a sports exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on September 14, 2016. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
July 17 (UPI) -- A group of track and field athletes on Friday urged the International Olympic Committee to wipe away a rule that bars political protests at the Olympic Games.
The Athletics Association, which formed Thursday, asked the governing Olympic body to revoke Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which stipulates that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
The group, which says it's a "unified and independent voice for elite track and field athletes around the world," said the rule prevents athletes from exercising a basic human right to "peacefully protest against social injustices in the world."
"For too long athletes have been powerless and without a real voice," members of the association's board, led by two-time Olympic gold medalist triple-jumper Christian Taylor, said in a statement.
The group cited perhaps the most famous protest in Olympic history -- at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City when runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists in a Black Power salute during the medal ceremony.
"[It's been] 52 years and the systemic racism that Tommie Smith and John Carlos were protesting against is still destroying communities and lives all over the world," the group said.
"And yet, athletes today have been warned that if they peacefully protest then they too will face sanctions and risk being disqualified or suspended."
Carlos co-signed a letter sent last month to the IOC from members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, similarly urging the end of Rule 50.
"We are now at a crossroads," the letter said. "The IOC and IPC cannot continue on the path of punishing or removing athletes who speak up for what they believe in."
The IOC reaffirmed guidelines last month that call for protesting athletes at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be disciplined.