USATF has underlined its support for athletes wishing to demonstrate in support of positive social change ©USATF

Max Siegel, chief executive of USA Track and Field (USATF), has stressed that the organisation "wholeheartedly supports" athletes demonstrating for social change.

Speaking during an online media round table event, Siegel, sitting alongside the USTAF chief operating officer Renee Washington, said:  "I did want to highlight that the last year for us, and especially the two of us, being the only two African American leaders in this country of a governing body has been one where we have really focused on educating our athletes to effectively advocate for positive social change.

"The issues that we are facing globally are real for us.

"Diversity and inclusion is woven into the fabric and the DNA of USA Track and Field.

"We are very proud of the fact that we have taken a leadership role on diversity and inclusion in the States.

"And I wanted to get ahead of any questions we might have relating to Rule 50."

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Section 2.2 states: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

In December last year the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said it would not sanction athletes for demonstrating at the Olympics and Paralympics, after the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice called for the end of the prohibition of peaceful demonstrations by team members at the Games.

The Team USA Council determined that Rule 50 "violates athletes’ rights to free speech and freedom of expression."

Siegel added: "I had the privilege of working on the first work-stream with the USOPC Council on Racial and Social Justice.

"It is chaired by Moushaumi Robinson, who is a leader and Olympic gold medallist with USATF.

"Renee and I have been actively engaged globally with World Athletics, whether it has been with the Women’s Commission or just issues in general with diversity and inclusion.

Max Siegel and Renee Washington, respective chief executive and chief operating officer of USA Track and Field, have underlined the organisation's support for athletes demonstrating for positive social change ©USATF
Max Siegel and Renee Washington, respective chief executive and chief operating officer of USA Track and Field, have underlined the organisation's support for athletes demonstrating for positive social change ©USATF

"And we have made a commitment to our athletes that we wholeheartedly support their voice, their ability to leverage a platform in a respectful manner for positive social change.

"For those that may have a question as it relates to our Olympic Trials starting in 10 days’ time, which we have governance over, we’ve been pretty clear that we will not issue any disciplining for voicing respectful and thoughtful engagement as it relates to social justice issues.

"As we’ve had that discussion and we talk about whether it’s protest and demonstrations, as people of colour we would hope that the people at the highest levels of sport see drawing attention to basic - in our opinion - human rights issues are not protest but really to shed light on something that we can affect positive social change.

"Throughout the history of our organisation, whether it’s Jesse Owens, whether it is John Carlos and Tommie Smith, we’ve been at the heart of cultural impact and we are most excited to go to Tokyo as a unified team."

Asked by insidethegames how USATF would react if one of its athletes demonstrated on the podium in contravention of Rule 50 at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which is outside its jurisdiction, Siegel replied: "We are incredibly supportive of our athletes, and our mission for the Olympics is athletics performance.

"And so our focus is making sure that our athletes have the ability to be on the podium.

"We have a confidence in our athletes that they will be respectful.

"I think that everyone in the space has the same goal in mind of unity and equality.

"It is not under our jurisdiction and it’s a case-by-case basis, so we don’t want to speculate on what an athlete might do.

"But I can tell you that we have been educating our athletes on being very, very positive advocates for social justice and we honour their ability to use their platform to express themselves in a respectful manner.

"The USPOC has been pretty clear about its advocacy with amending or changing Rule 50, and we respect the IOC’s position to not amend it.

"It is a matter of opinion."