Do Black Lives Matter Protests Belong at the Olympics?

By Rosen, Ben | The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Do Black Lives Matter Protests Belong at the Olympics?


Rosen, Ben, The Christian Science Monitor


Is there room for Black Lives Matter at the Olympics?

No, according to a majority of Americans.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released just five days before the start of the Games found 65 percent of Americans, whether they identify as white or belonging to a racial minority, feel Olympic athletes should not express their political views in Rio de Janeiro.

Monday's poll results come as mainstream American sports have become a venue for the Black Lives Matter movement. While star basketball players including LeBron James and Derrick Rose have brought the issues of race relations and police misconduct to the court, the poll shows most Americans don't want to see Olympians take part in it, just as much as they didn't want to see the two American Olympic sprinters raise their fists to salute Black Power nearly 50 years ago.

Asked if Olympic athletes should express their political views, 65 percent of respondents said no; 24 percent said yes, if athletes want to. Fifty-two percent of respondents from racial minorities agreed athletes should not express their political views, while about a third said athletes should be able to if they wish.

3,015 people responded in the online poll over July 22-26.

The poll comes after Black Lives Matter has already made its way to Rio. Six American activists from the movement joined 200 local activists July 23 to march through the central part of the city, protesting police brutality and racial profiling, much like the movement in the United States protests.

To many Black Lives Matter activists, however, Rio is an ideal location for protests of police violence, as Brazil struggles with similar clashes between its black and mixed race community and police.

The South American nation is currently in the grips of deep recession, and reports of soaring unemployment and shortfalls in its state security budget are exacerbating tensions.

Economic problems have only compounded longstanding conflicts between Brazil's black and mixed race community and police. Of the 200 million people who live in Brazil, a majority identify as black or mixed race. Those with darker skin, however, experience socio- economic constraints and higher rates of conflict with police, according to Reuters. In fact, a recent report by Human Rights Watch found Brazilian police over the past decade have killed more than 8,000 people in the state of Rio, three-quarters of whom were black males. …

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