Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo

Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo

The competitors most likely to combine athleticism with activism on sports’ largest stage

Gwen Berry (l.)
Gwen Berry (l.)
Photo: Getty Images

Protest is such a necessary form of progress in society. There is rarely any improvement in a culture without people making their voices heard. And, usually, the bigger the stage for these protests, the stronger the influence.

Just ask people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who became icons after their stands at the 1968 Olympics to highlight racial inequality in America.

The last two years have provided one of the most impactful social awakenings in American history, and with the Olympics right around the corner, athletes could take this opportunity to push the conversation forward even more on social issues. In April the IOC said that protests will be banned because of Rule 50 of the Olympic charter.

But there’s always the possibility that someone can step up and make a statement for a cause they feel passionate about.

Advertisement

2 / 11

Race Imboden

Race Imboden

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Imboden is a fencer who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics and he is no stranger to making his voice heard. He won gold and bronze medals at the Pan Am Games in 2019, but what he did on the medal podium stole the show. He took a knee to protest the injustices that he felt were transpiring in this country, from racism to gun violence.

If compelled, Imboden could make another statement in Tokyo.

Advertisement

3 / 11

Noah Lyles

Noah Lyles

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Lyles will be competing in the 200m at the games in Tokyo and is one of the favorites to take home the Gold. Lyles has run the four fastest 200-meter times in the world since 2016. Yet, he could make even more noise by protesting at the Olympic Games. Lyles has worn a Black fingerless glove periodically since August 2020 to pay homage to the iconic pairing of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The Black Glove may return in Tokyo.

Advertisement

4 / 11

Draymond Green

Draymond Green

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Green is one of the most outspoken players in the NBA. He’s continuously voiced himself on issues of race and equity in this country. As a member of the United States men’s basketball team, Green could make a significant statement if he chose to highlight the ills of our country on a global stage.

Advertisement

5 / 11

Gwen Berry

Gwen Berry

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Berry has already started shaking tables before the games have even started. The Olympic hammer thrower has already received tons of backlash for turning her back on the American flag during the Star-Spangled Banner at the U.S. Olympic Trials before draping a black T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” on her head. She also made a statement during the 2019 Pan American Games, when she raised her first at the medal podium.

Advertisement

6 / 11

Simone Biles

Simone Biles

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Biles is arguably the best athlete on the planet, so her words and actions hold tremendous weight. She’s already been outspoken on issues involving the safety of gymnasts in wake of the Larry Nassar investigation and she left Nike to join Athleta, which Biles says more closely reflects her values of using her voices to advocate for females and children. If she does anything to bring attention to the plight of women, it will be front-page news.

Advertisement

7 / 11

Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Felix is an Olympic legend and has turned herself into one of the greatest track athletes ever to compete. Felix could be an interesting figure to watch because she is coming into this Olympics after having her first child, which led to her very public divorce from Nike in 2019. She refused to let Nike pay her less after her pregnancy, a struggle that many women who are starting families have to deal with. She has since started her own athletic brand for women. Felix could be an interesting voice for women who want to balance their family life and career without misogynistic ideals holding them back.

Advertisement

8 / 11

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Not only is the U.S. women’s team historically dominant in the Olympics, winning four Gold medals in the last 5 Olympic games. The women’s soccer team is also one of the most outspoken teams against social injustice that we have in all of sports. From women’s rights to LGBTQ+ rights, the women’s team is known for calling out the ills in our society.

Advertisement

9 / 11

U.S. Women’s Basketball Team

U.S. Women’s Basketball Team

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

The players on the USA Women’s Basketball team have been at the forefront of social change for years. WNBA stars have never shied away bringing injustices to light on the biggest platforms that they have. This Olympics will likely be no different. They come from a professional league that literally influenced a senatorial race in the state of Georgia. They are always about that action.

Advertisement

10 / 11

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka

Image for article titled Olympic athletes who could protest in Tokyo
Photo: Getty Images

Osaka is one of tennis’ biggest stars, and even though she can be soft-spoken at times, she never misses a moment to bring attention to important issues. This is the same woman who put the spotlight on racial injustice and police brutality by broadcasting the names of victims during her tennis matches, and now she is taking an even stronger stance as an advocate for mental health by refusing to compete in matches that force her into positions that she’s uncomfortable with. The Olympics will be the first time we’ll see Osaka on the court in a while and she could make a public statement that’ll be more powerful than her swing.

Advertisement

11 / 11