(Reuters) - Germany's athletes' association said competitors should not be sanctioned for gestures such as taking a knee or lifting a fist in support of racial equality during the Tokyo Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Rule 50 forbids any kind of "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" in venues and any other Olympic area and the Games body concluded on Wednesday the rule should be maintained following an athlete consultation.
Sports teams and athletes around the world have been protesting against racial injustice against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and even World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said athletes should have the right to protest.
"The recommendations to revise Rule 50 miss the core problem of the blanket restriction of freedom of expression," Athleten Deutschland said in a statement on Thursday.
"Athletes should be free to peacefully declare their support for the values of our free and democratic society at any time. Peaceful protest must be possible - also in the arena.
"Athleten Deutschland concurs in so far that the sporting achievements of athletes should be honoured appropriately and as undisturbed as possible. However, human rights, such as freedom of expression, are universal."
Athleten Deutschland's managing director Johannes Herber said it was clear the IOC attached greater importance to "maintaining political neutrality than to the fundamental rights of individual athletes".
"Should German athletes decide to peacefully stand up for fundamental values such as the fight against racism during the Olympic Games, they can rely on the legal support of Athleten Deutschland in the event of sanctions," Herber said.
The Tokyo Olympics, delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kick off on July 23.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)