US hammer thrower Gwen Berry co-signed an open letter to high-ranking International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, calling for amendments to the IOC rule that threatens to punish athletes for protesting or demonstrating on medal podiums at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Berry signed the letter along with famed former US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised gloved fists on the podium during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. They are among more than 150 other athletes, human rights and social justice experts and sports organizations, who have also signed the letter.
The 32-year-old is slated to begin her Olympic competition on July 31.
Berry drew much attention when she refused to face the American flag as the National Anthem played at June’s US Olympic Track and Field trials.
The letter calls upon the IOC to “refrain from imposing sanctions on athletes protesting and demonstrating in accordance with internationally-recognized human rights frameworks … in any Olympic/Paralympic sites, venues or other areas – including the podium."
Days ahead of her first appearance at the Summer Games, Berry tweeted her support of the petition, saying: “We need to take STAND.”
After a 10-month consultation process with more than 3,500 athletes, who represent 185 different national olympic committees, and all 41 Olympic Sports, the IOC decided to uphold the rule that bans protests in April.
However, on July 2, the IOC amended the rule and loosened previous guidelines, allowing athletes to express their views in mixed zones, press conferences, during interviews, as well as prior to the start of competition.
While offering appreciation for the strides the IOC made in promoting athlete expression, the open letter claims the changes made do not “reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right nor to racial and social justice in global sport.”
The letter added:
“We believe the global sport community is at a turning point in matters of racial and social justice, and we call on you as leaders in the Olympic and Paralympic Movements to make a stronger commitment to human rights, racial/social justice, and social inclusion.”
CNN has reached out to the IOC for comment on the group’s request for policy change and full freedom of expression.