The Week That Was: Olympic Bosses Warn Athletes They Face a Ban If They Take a Knee in Peaceful Protest Over Injustice

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Heat of the Moment: Jesse Owens, 1936, and the story of Colin Kaepernik and taking the knee, which tells a tale of lessons long in the learning - Photo Courtesy: Heat of the Moment, published by Wiley, and still from Now This Video of the Kaepernik story [inset of Anthony Ervin taking the knee, courtesy of Best Swimming Twitter, 2017)

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The International Olympics Committee (IOC) is sticking to its threat to ban athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 for taking a knee in peaceful solidarity with anti-racism movements.

IOC bosses confirmed that their guidelines haven’t changed despite international law that defends the right of peaceful protest, despite such protests unfolding world wide and despite significant shifts in thinking at sports organizations such the NFL, FIFA and England’s FA in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer now charged with murder.

Elsewhere, the Brazilian Olympic Committee will be sending some of its best athletes to Portugal and other places in Europe to ensure they have top notch facilities to train at safely. The national swim team has not finalized anything yet.

Also in the week that was, Katie Robinson was upgraded to head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at Northwestern. Robinson is one of six female head coaches in swimming and diving across the Power-5 conferences and just the second female to oversee both men’s and women’s programs in the Power-5.

Read below the five biggest stories in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #5: Katie Robinson Promoted to Head Coach of Northwestern Swimming & Diving

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Photo Courtesy: Walt Middleton

By Andy Ross

Northwestern has elevated Katie Robinson to Director of Swimming & Diving, Combe Family Vice President for Athletics & Recreation Jim Phillips announced Thursday.

“We are thrilled to introduce Katie Robinson as Northwestern’s new Director of Swimming and Diving,” said Phillips. “In the midst of unprecedented circumstances, our committee carried out a comprehensive international search. In speaking with our student-athletes, industry leaders, and a host of talented candidates, it became very clear that the best candidate was already a part of our Northwestern family. Katie has played a critical role in our program’s undeniable ascension over the last two seasons and we cannot wait to see where she takes the program in the years to come.”

Robinson has served as Northwestern’s associate head coach since July of 2018. With her promotion, Robinson brings a student-athlete driven coaching focus with experience from notable programs including Virginia, Rutgers and head coaching experience at Tulane.

Robinson is one of six female head coaches in swimming and diving across the Power-5 conferences and just the second female to oversee both men’s and women’s programs in the Power-5.

#4: Brazilian Olympic Committee to Send Athletes to Europe For Training

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Joao Gomes. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

By Andy Ross

The Brazilian Olympic Committee (BOC) will be sending around 200 athletes to various parts of Europe to train for the Olympic Games between July and December, according to a report from Inside the Games. Portugal has been a confirmed destination for Brazilian athletes to train, and was chosen because of the country’s advanced stage in the confrontation of COVID-19, and its existing relationship with the BOC.

The BOC had already been planning on using Portugal as a staging camp for some of its athletes ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The action is part of the Emergency Program to Support the Olympic System, which was conceived in mid-May this year after two months of social isolation, according to the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

“The BOC understands the unique moment that the whole world is going through, with a direct impact on all segments of society, including sports. In this sense, we fulfill our role of keeping the Olympic System healthy and of offering our athletes the best training and performance conditions, with maximum security,” says the entity’s president, Paulo Wanderley Teixeira.

The Brazilian Olympic Committee will pay for athlete tickets, accommodation and meals over a six month period. Details for the national swim team have not been finalized yet.

The Week That Was #3: New Florida Law Passed to Allow College Athletes to Profit From Name, Image and Likeness

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Vanessa Pearl, current Florida student-athlete. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

By Andy Ross

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday that would allow college athletes in the state to make money from name, image and likeness (NIL) starting July 1, 2021, according to ESPN. The bill puts more pressure on the nationwide movement for college athletes to be able to benefit from the billions of dollars generated each year by the college sports industry.

The NCAA will vote on a nationwide policy that will allow its athletes to earn money off name, image and likeness in January that will go into effect for the 2021-22 school year.  That proposal will have restrictions to differentiate between college sports and professional leagues. The proposal did not however establish those guardrails and who would enforce them. College sport leaders are planning to iron out those details by the end of October and will vote in January. There is no guarantee the proposal will become an official NCAA rule.

NCAA president Mark Emmert and other college sports stakeholders are strongly opposed to having states create new laws that dictate the rules for how college athletes can profit from the use of their NIL. Emmert is concerned that a patchwork of laws would cause student-athletes to pick schools based on where they can make the most money and give some programs an unequal recruiting advantage.

#2: Six Women Name USA Swimming, Former Coaches in Sexual Assault Lawsuit

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

By Matthew De George

Six women have filed civil suits against USA Swimming this month in California over sexual abuse at the hands of coaches, an investigation revealed in the week that was.

Among the other entities named in the lawsuits, according to an investigation by the Orange County Register News, are USA Swimming’s Southern California and Northern California (Pacific) associations, former national team coach Mitch Ivey, U.S. national team director Everett Uchiyama and former swim coach Andy King.

The suit alleges that high-ranking officials, in the state and at USA Swimming, knew about predatory behavior by coaches and didn’t take proper steps to address it. They expressed concerns that such a culture remains within the swimming ranks today.

Debra Grodensky (maiden name Denithorne) is one of the women suing. She was sexually assaulted by King starting at age 12 and raped by him at age 15. At age 16, the 37-year-old King asked her to marry him, leading to her quitting the sport.

“I want this lawsuit to wake up USA Swimming and to push them to mandate prevention, education, and training for its coaches, officials, volunteers, athletes, and parents,” Grodensky told the Register.

USA Swimming has taken action on all three men. King was convicted on charges of sexual abuse and is serving a 40-year prison sentence. He had been banned from the sport prior to that. Ivey was banned for life in 2013. Uchiyama was banned for life in 2010. But it took years of abuse and scores of victims before that happened.

“USA Swimming must clean house and get rid of the coaches and executives that created this culture that condones sexual abuse by coaches and that still exists today,” said Suzette Moran, who has alleged abuse at the hands of Ivey. “If I have the courage to tell my story on a national stage, USA Swimming should have the courage to clean house and make this sport safer for all children.”

The Week That Was #1: Olympic Bosses Warn Athletes They Face a Ban If They Take a Knee in Peaceful Protest Over Injustice

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Taking the knee gets an Olympic ban in a climate of support for such peaceful protest – Photo Courtesy: Now This Video of the Colin Kaepernik story

By Craig Lord, Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) is sticking to its threat to ban athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 for taking a knee in peaceful solidarity with anti-racism movements.

IOC bosses confirmed that their guidelines haven’t changed despite international law that defends the right of peaceful protest, despite such protests unfolding world wide and despite significant shifts in thinking at sports organizations such the NFL, FIFA and England’s FA in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer now charged with murder.

The crisis in the United States has led to protests across the world on an issue that played out in Olympic history back in 1936, when Jesse Owens claimed four gold medals in the face of discrimination about to spill to World War and the Holocaust.

The IOC’s confirmation followed an Open Letter addressed to it by Gwen Berry, the American hammer thrower, under the heading: “Sport, Politics, protest … and The Olympics.”

The Olympic Movement and member federations have long been criticized for being behind the times on many issues, including rights of athletes, the models through which vast revenues flowing from the business of the Games and related Olympic sports events are shared and structures of governance backed by constitutions that keep independent oversight at bay or cut it out altogether.

Olympic officials published guidelines in January banning any protest at the Tokyo Games. Athletes face sanctions, including removal of medals and suspension from the Games, for “taking a knee, raising a fist or refusing to follow protocol at medal ceremonies.”

The Week That Was: Global Athlete Calls on IOC to ‘Immediately Abolish’ Olympic Ban on Kneeling

By Matthew De George

Global Athlete on Sunday published a letter to the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee urging them to immediately repeat prohibitions on taking a knee in solidarity with the global anti-racism movement.

The international athlete-led movement is asking the IOC to repeal Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. The rule ostensibly maintains political neutrality of the Games, but in reality, Global Athlete says, it quashes any hint of dissent or political consciousness from being displayed.

From the letter:

Athletes have had to choose between competing in silence and standing up for what’s right for far too long. It is time for change. Every athlete must be empowered to use their platforms, gestures and voice. Silencing the athlete voice has led to oppression, silence has led to abuse, and silence has led to discrimination in sport.

Global Athlete goes on to write that the rule puts athletes, “in a powerless position,” subject to rules it has no say in determining despite being an important stakeholder in how those rules are carried out. The letter calls Rule 50, “a clear breach of every athletes’ human rights.”

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

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