U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, joined a handful of Republican lawmakers last week in threatening to dissolve and replace the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and its board of directors over recent “anti-American” protests by some Olympic athletes.
In a letter to the USOPC, Owens and other GOP lawmakers, including Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks, R-Indiana, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina, and Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona, voiced “serious concerns about radical, anti-American statements,” which they argued would represent the country poorly on the world stage.
The letter, which was first reported on by the New York Post, cited two Olympic athletes who have used their platform to criticize the U.S., including freestyle BMX biker Chelsea Wolfe, who reportedly said on Facebook in March 2020 that she hoped to win the competition so she could “burn a U.S. flag on the podium.”
The group of GOP lawmakers also referenced Gwen Berry, who last month turned away from the American flag and held up a T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” written on it after receiving the bronze medal in the hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
Additionally, the lawmakers cited an International Olympic Committee rule stating that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas” and urged the committee to enforce the rule.
“The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act, enacted in October 2020, gives Congress the power, through a joint resolution, to dissolve the USOPC Board of Directors, terminate recognition of the USOPC as a national governing body of the U.S. Olympic teams, and replace the dissolved committee with a governing body that can adequately represent America and its athletes on the world stage,” they said.
The Congress members continued, “If the USOPC continues to fail to discipline athletes who dishonor the United States and our flag, as required by its own charter, we would support a Joint Resolution to dissolve the USOPC’s Board of Governors and find a replacement governing body for the U.S. Olympic team.”
“Americans deserve an Olympic Committee that is patriotic and that shares their values,” the letter reads. “If the USOPC is unable or unwilling to defend America from slander, it should be replaced by a more capable committee.”
Owens, a former NFL player, has criticized athletes who use their platforms to protest political issues like systemic racism and police violence.
On the 2020 campaign trail, Owens billed himself as “the anti-Colin Kaepernick” candidate, stating that he “emerged as a cultural counterweight to the hatred that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has spewed for the last few years.”
“Sports used to be a place where fans could go and get away from reality,” the 4th District representative tweeted in August 2020. “Sports fans don’t want to turn on their TVs and see a bunch of rich people arguing about politics all the time.”
Other Republicans who signed on to the letter to the USOPC include Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida; Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia; Mike Garcia, R-California; Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico; Ronny Jackson, R-Texas; Randy Weber, R-Texas; Greg Murphy, R-North Carolina; and Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina.