IOC efforts to ban Black Lives Matter message from Tokyo Olympics will fail epically

Photo Credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Referring to many of the suits (and it is mostly a country club-style cluster of suits) who run the International Olympic Committee as visionaries would be an insult to visionaries. When attempting to conjure words to describe the men who run the international sporting body, the term “dinosaurs” may be more of an appropriate word.

Or the phrase “out of touch.” Nevertheless, the International Olympic Committee actually believes it can keep this year’s Tokyo Olympics clear of “political messaging” by attemping to ban Black Lives Matter demonstrations from occurring throughout the Games’ two weeks.

The IOC is supposed to be the governing body that is in charge of the biggest sporting event on the planet – the Olympics, something that every athlete in the world dreams of competing in. Actions like this continue to display what the International Olympic Committee is actually all about.

Money and corruption.

Apparently, Thomas Bach (IOC president) and the rest of that Olympic board did not get the memo last year from 2020’s international protests following the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Apparently, Bach did not get the memo that the Floyd killing recently resulted in Derek Chauvin being convicted in Floyd’s murder.

Apparently, Bach and the IOC did not get the memo that athletes across the world – including WNBA and NBA players made their presences known at many of those protests. From Natasha Cloud to Liz Cambage, the world displayed it believes Black Lives Matter even if the calendars at IOC headquarters in Europe are probably stuck on when the inaugural Olympics occurred – in 1896 in Athens.

And about those protests? They took place during a global pandemic. People from London to Los Angeles rallied in the streets with the coronavirus wreaking havoc across our planet to demand accountability for officers who kill Black and Brown people.

Speaking of those WNBA players, many of those players will be Tokyo-bound for this year’s Olympics and the Black Lives Matter movement means much more to these players than an international sporting competition that occurs every four years. This even applies in the case of USA Basketball which will be aiming for its seventh consecutive gold medal.

Those same WNBA players had no problems going to the bubble last year and letting the country know it should back the opponent in a Senate race that was looking to oust a (now ex) WNBA owner in Kelly Loeffler (Atlanta Dream) because of her anti-Black Lives Matter comments. Those efforts proved to be successful as evidenced by Reverend Raphael Warnock’s (and Jon Ossoff’s) victories in Georgia runoff election that occurred this past January. WNBA players took on one of its own owners last year and flipped the U.S. Senate from Republican red to Democratic blue as a result.

It should not be much of a surprise that the IOC apparently has its head in the sand on social justice issues. This is the same sporting body in recent years that has tried to police how athletes use social media during the games. Bach needs to cover up because your 67 years of age (and white, we must add) are showing.

We understand, Bach, that you wish Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok existed in your heyday approximately 50 years ago, but a great deal of Olympians are teenagers and early 20-year olds. They are going to be glued to social media whenever they are not competing or training and the old suits in Lausanne might as well deal with it, accept it and (if anything) embrace it). What’s the matter, IOC? Upset that someone might catch you with your pants down in Tokyo the same way Oregon’s Sedona Prince (a finalist for the USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup team, by the way) used TikTok to catch the NCAA with its pants down for its lackluster prep for the women’s NCAA tournament and Final Four in Texas two months ago?

Hey, Bach – you understand what a great deal of Olympians also are? Black. Brown. Asian. Muslim. LGBTQIA. Many of whom come from countries who are ravaged in political turmoil (or Covid-19 or both). India right now is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. India is hoping to make sure its athletes are fully vaccinated prior to the start of the Games. That country needs something to rally behind as India’s Covid problems become the attention of the entire world.

By the way, Bach, shouldn’t you be less worried about if an athlete or athletes throws up a fist or kneels as the national anthem is played after someone from the USA wins a gold medal or if Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” is blasting from the speakers at one (or several) of the Olympic venues and more worried about convincing cities to actually bid for the Games?

The IOC’s problems with getting cities to go after the Olympics are so bad after how much money was wasted on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics that the IOC simultaneously awarded the Games to two cities that were bidding for the 2024 Olympics. Paris won the 2024 Olympics and Los Angeles (in a bid which the WNBA and NBA endorsed) was awarded the 2028 Games without an official courting process where politicians, celebrities and athletes brown-nose the IOC.

As remarkable as the Olympics look on television to international audiences, many cities that bid on the Games do not make a profit. And many venues, unfortunately that are used for the Olympics collect dust afterwards (see Rio 2016). The Olympic movement after Sochi is back to the point where it was in the late 1970s when after the Olympics in Montreal (an Olympiad dubbed “The Big Owe” because almost all of the venues built were new stadia), cities balked on going for the Olympics because of the exorbitant price tag associated with the five-ring circus.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The 1984 bidding process essentially came down to two cities – Los Angeles and New York City. Of course, LA won – and the fact that LA84 was a financial success for the Olympics effectively gave new life to the Olympic movement. It can even be argued that LA’s success with 1984 was a major reason why the centennial Olympics of 1996 were awarded to another American city in Atlanta as opposed to where many purists would have preferred them to be in Athens (which later won the 2004 Games effectively as a make-good for 1996).

But back to 2020 and the IOC’s short-sightedness on social justice protests. The IOC claims it can ban the Black Lives Matter message from the Olympics because it is political messaging.

First, Black Lives Matter is not a political message – it is one of civil and human rights.

Second, the IOC has had no problems in the past awarding Games to countries with histories of human rights abuses (see: Russia and China – the host country for next year’s Winter Olympics by the way).

Third, the IOC wants to keep politics out of the Games, but how the IOC effectively extorts money from localities and nations to pay for its two-week, five-ring circus (while evading the taxes it and its suits ought to be paying in those localities and nations) is purely political.

Fourth, do we really want to get into how Olympic prep in many of these cities and localities effectively displaces the homeless to make these areas look attractive for television? Looking at you Paris and Los Angeles.

Fifth, the United States is not the only country that will be sending Black, Brown and Asian athletes to the Olympics.

Sixth, the IOC should simply be thankful that there even is a Tokyo Olympics this year. And while NBC broadcast money has a lot to do with it, there is still this thing called Covid-19 going around and it cares zero about currency – whether it is in Japanese yen or American dollars.

As far as the Black Lives Matter movement is concerned, it will make its way to the Olympics for one big, Olympic-sized reason.

Nobody will be tuning into the Olympics this summer to see Thomas Bach or any other IOC suits.

Our guess is no one on this Earth is thinking about the empty suits who run the International Olympic Committee when deciding or not to tune into American Olympic coverage on NBC or Canada’s Olympic coverage on CBC, TSN and SportsNet or the UK’s Olympic coverage on the BBC or Discovery or Australia’s Olympic Coverage on the Seven Network.

Even with this year’s Games being devoid of international spectators because of Covid protocols, the athletes themselves will have no problem ensuring IOC meets BLM in Tokyo. In the case of basketball, it may be different on the women’s side because many WNBA players hoop overseas when the season concludes in the W – so gold, silver and bronze medals mean plenty to WNBA players.

But for the NBA players that will be participating in the Games, they care more about NBA championships than they do gold medals (Carmelo Anthony may be the rare exception of this in recent memory). The gold medals are merely stat-padders, but compared to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Bach is a lightweight to LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Athletes that will be competing in Tokyo representing the United States will recognize that they, not Bach, have the power in this scenario. What if a scenario were to occur where (almost) every athlete in American colors rips off the uniforms they will wear at the opening ceremony (if they are introduced in Tokyo in traditional Olympic fashion per Covid protocols) and reveals apparel that says “Black Lives Matter,” or “No Justice, No Peace,” or “All Cops Are Bad,” or “Arrest the Cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”

Is the IOC going to effectively ban the entire United States Olympic Team from what has become Tokyo 2021 (even if still officially branded as Tokyo 2020)? Of course they will not. Why? Three reasons.

N, B, and C.

If the lightweight Bach even thinks of disqualifying the entire United States Olympic Team because a good many of them appeared to the Games to spread the Black Lives Matter message, the IOC’s suits will get a very stern talking to from NBC executives at 30 Rock in New York. Seven years ago, NBC extended with the Olympics until 2032 for a very pedestrian $7.75 billion.

NBC executives will let the IOC know either via phone, text or Zoom meeting (using some very colorful language, we guess) that the peacock is not shelling out all of that money to broadcast the Games with no American athletes competing in those Games – particularly during primetime hours when Olympics viewership is at its peak. That is all it will take for the IOC to realize it is toothless and realize that in 2021, the social justice message will win out over the tired “shut up and play” malarkey.

So, try it Bach. You may think you are winning a gold medal in trying to silence Black athletes similar to how those that run American sports leagues (looking at you Roger Goodell) have tried. But as the athletes of the WNBA and NBA displayed inside and outside of their respective bubbles last year, Bach will not even make it to the medal stand.