12 Jun 2020

NZOC encourages athletes to speak out on social issues

9:28 am on 12 June 2020

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has told its athletes they should speak openly about social and political issues, especially those involving racism, as calls to change rules restricting protest at the Olympics grows louder.

NZOC president Mike Stanley.

Mike Stanley Photo: Photosport

Several major sports organisations have already moved to allow protests at their events following George Floyd's death in U.S. police custody on May 25, while athletes globally have offered support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

President Mike Stanley says sport unites people from all around the world and from all walks of life.

"As an organisation, we stand for respect, that means respect for who we are, where we come from and our competitors around the world," he said. "We support our athletes as they share their voices, and we look to ourselves for ways to further strengthen our commitment to equality."

Board Member Diana Puketapu, who is also the board representative on the New Zealand Olympic Committee's Maori Advisory Committee, thanked the Athletes' Commission for encouraging New Zealand Team members to share their voices in support of the fight against discrimination and injustice.

"Our Maori Advisory Committee is in place to support the New Zealand Olympic Committee's journey towards a stronger culture of inclusion and respect. We are calling for further engagement with Olympic and Commonwealth athletes here and around the world on the role sport and athletes can play in supporting human rights."

Sarah Cowley Ross, Chair of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission, said she received positive feedback from last week's communication to athletes which encouraged athletes to stand up for equal rights and fairness around the world.

"It's important for athletes to feel empowered and to understand the role they can play as community leaders. I was proud to see so many athletes using their platforms for good and we look forward to finding additional avenues to support their calls for change.

"We are committed to providing input to the wider IOC Athletes' Commission discussion on athlete voice and advocacy to ensure New Zealand's perspective is heard."

The International Olympic Committee specifically bans political protests at Olympic Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday it has embarked on a process of engagement with athletes about "expressing support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter in a dignified way".

Floyd's death has seen Black Lives Matter protests spread globally, including to street marches in New Zealand.