Why I won’t watch the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Sunlight peeks through statue on San Jose State University campus that honors Olympians Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ protest at 1968 Games.
Sunlight peeks through statue on San Jose State University campus that honors Olympians Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ protest at 1968 Games.
Image: AP

Count me out on the Olympics.


Can’t watch. Don’t care.

Sure, I will miss great performances from fine athletes who have put their heart and soul into training for the once-in-a-lifetime world stage.

The Games were supposed to rally nations, give people pride about the countries they are from.

For sure, on paper, it sounds like it would be a great event, something you could wrap your arms around and you would honestly look forward to every four years.


Then, Thursday happened. The International Olympics Committee announced very loudly and clearly what won’t be allowed at this Summer Games in Tokyo.

It said specifically that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” will be banned from athlete apparel at the Olympics.


It’s part of the IOC’s ridiculous, long-standing ban on “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” on the playing field, medal stand or during the Games’ official ceremonies.

In other words, shut up and play.

Apparently, the committee didn’t watch the news last year when America took to the streets in an attempt to force change against police brutality and social and racial injustice.


All that matters to those people is that they collect their money and they hand out their silly little medals. The bribe is that world-class athletes have to forget about the world’s ills for a month or so.


After that, it’s back to business as usual — oppression and exclusion.

Rules and regulations are meant to be broken. Change is good and warranted when life changes.


We saw this in this country when leagues dropped their so-called rules on protests and self-expression.

Black Lives Matter was splashed all over sports venues, even an old white-man league like the NFL gave up and allowed players to kneel and protest against terrible conditions facing Black and brown people at the hands of white police.


Yet, somehow, the same league that wrongfully blackballed Colin Kaepernick from playing in the league for his personal protests against the same exact thing three years earlier changed and embraced the cause.

Players put pressure on the league and it was forced to do the right thing.

The problem simply couldn’t be ignored anymore.

Yet, the IOC still has its head in the sand. It wants to inhibit athletes’ personal freedoms. It wants to punish athletes if they violate the committee’s edict.


And while the IOC hasn’t spelled out what types of punishment athletes could face, it said it would treat each violation on a case-by-case basis.

Hard to imagine why any athlete, especially one of color, would want to participate in such an event for such a rigid and wrong group of people.


And for all minorities who get into the Olympic spirit, here’s some history to ponder.

In 1936, it seemed almost impossible that people, especially African Americans, took part in the Olympics in Berlin when Hitler’s Nazi movement prompted the U.S. to keep its Jewish athletes out of competition. If you don’t know the story of longtime broadcaster Marty Glickman, a Jewish sprinter at those Games who was benched by the U.S., you should.


Somehow, the IOC was OK with that. Remember, The Games must go on.

And there’s the treatment of Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in 1936. He was cheered from afar for showing up Hitler in his house. But when Owens came home, however, he was turned away from many hotels and restaurants. And at one point, to make a living, he had to race a horse. It doesn’t get any more humiliating than that.


Almost 30 years later, it was John Carlos and Tommie Smith, raising black-gloved fists in protest in Mexico City in 1968. And although they knew they would be suspended and sent home, there was no way they could go there and represent the U.S. and not bring attention to the unfair treatment of Blacks in America.

It was selfless and courageous.

Enter 2021.

How dare the IOC think it can still bully athletes who are smarter, more conscious, and in some cases, wealthier than ever before. Many athletes refuse to simply go along and act as if there’s nothing wrong.


If the IOC remains hell-bent on sticking to policies that are both outdated and wrong, athletes should boycott the games — refuse to take part in the biggest international sham going.

Sometimes, the way you can get people to change is by hurting their wallets.

NBA players could get the ball rolling by announcing they won’t take part in this charade.


If they accept these terms and play in Tokyo, I wouldn’t know. I’m not watching a minute of coverage.

You heard me. Count me out.