‘Nobody gets to tell you how to lead’: Anthony Ervin Weighs in on IOC Report

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

American Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin posted a video to YouTube this week hitting back at a recent IOC report showing broad athlete support for keeping prohibitions against athlete expression in place.

Ervin has been vocal about the need for athletes to be able to express themselves and the detriment when bodies like the IOC dictate speech. He and other American athletes have come out against Rule 50 of the IOC charter, which forbids speech of a political nature during official Olympic ceremonies or on the fields of competition. That catchall term of “political” encompasses, to the dismay of many, statements about human rights, which many athletes have increasingly been vocal about in light of many issues surfacing during the last year, including protests against systemic inequality and police brutality in the United States.

Such was the resistance in the U.S. that the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee underwent a review of its policies, drastically loosening the limits on athlete expression at Olympic Trials. It still defers jurisdiction to the IOC, and thus Rule 50, at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Ervin’s video showed the soon-to-be 40-year-old expressing his eloquently poetic thoughts on the matter:

Are you to be atop that podium in those moments, for those few moments, you will lead your country. You want to take a knee? Lead us by taking a knee. You want raise a fist? Lead us by raising a fist. You want to cry tears of joy? Lead us with your tears. You want to sing? Lead us with your song. Nobody gets to tell you how to lead. You must decide.

Anthony Ervin has reached the top step in the podium twice as an individual, winning the men’s 50 freestyle at the 2000 Olympics and 2016 Games. (He also won relay gold in Rio and silver in Sydney.)

One theme Ervin repeatedly mentions in these conversations is the personal and spontaneous aspect of the moment. He doesn’t know what will be in someone’s heart and mind – doesn’t even know for sure what could be in his heart or mind – when they ascend that top step. To unilaterally say what can and cannot be said at those moments, Ervin believes, is antithetical to the global spirit of the Games.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Glenn Stephens

    Go Bears! You tell them Anthony!