Several athletes, like others troubled by high-profile shootings of black citizens and racial divide in the United States, are increasingly using their platform of sport to promote harmony and social change. Jayma Meyer, a visiting scholar who teaches sports law and public policy at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, believes that some competitors in Rio will be inspired by the late Muhammed Ali, Billie Jean King and others to highlight social issues.
“Athletes have said they will use the Olympics this year as yet another platform to bring attention to these insidious events, to renounce violence and to help bring about changes,” Meyer said. “Will athletes violate Olympic rules by protesting at Olympic events and ceremonies and risk having their medals stripped and being suspended from the games?”
Rule 50 of the Olympic charter restricts political gestures or protest by athletes.
“Sport, and particularly the Olympics, is a powerful tool for peace,” she said. “Sport also is an equalizer. It has the power to bring about gender equity both in participation and leadership roles.”
Since 2012, women have participated in every Olympic sport at the games, and the United States has made great progress in female participation rates, Meyer noted. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, 47.9 percent of the U.S. team were women; while at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, the U.S. team is predicted to have a 52.6 percent women’s participation rate.
“Still, leadership roles for women at the Games continue to lag,” Meyer added. “For example, the executive committee of the International Olympic Committee has only four women members out of a total of 15 spots. The board of directors of the U.S. Olympic Committee has five women members out of 16 total members. Thus, women have come a far way since first being included in the games in 1900, but there is work left to be done, especially in leadership roles.”
Meyer is an experienced litigator of Title IX cases and lectures throughout the U.S. on the power of sports and gender equity. She is a board member of the Women’s Sports Foundation (founded by King) and the National Women’s Law Center She can be reached at 212-455-3935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.