Pyeongchang, South Korea • Is the Statue of Liberty about to get tossed from the Olympics?
The U.S. women's hockey team is apparently mulling changes to its goalies' masks over concerns that the colorful red, white and blue design, which features the iconic statue, violates Olympic rules that bar teams and athletes from displaying political symbols at the Winter Games.
The American team plays its second game of the Olympic tournament on Tuesday night, and officials with USA Hockey were still sorting out whether the team's goaltenders would have to take the ice with an alternate design when it faces Slovenia. Dave Fisher, a spokesman for USA Hockey, did not immediately return a request for comment but told USA Today that "discussions are ongoing."
Goalie Maddie Rooney, who started the team's opener against Finland, and the team's two other netminders all have masks featuring patriotic designs here in Pyeongchang, some also including images of stars and a bald eagle.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning in Pyeongchang, Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, said, "That's the first I've heard of that."
But IOC officials point out there are clear rules governing what symbols can and can't be used in its Guidelines Regarding Authorized Identifications. Those rules allow "national colors, name, flag and emblems" that are used "to visually enhance the national identity of their Items." But they also state: "No Item may feature the wording or lyrics from national anthems, motivational words, public/political messaging or slogans related to national identity."
Before faceoff against Slovenia, officials with USA Hockey and the IOC will apparently have to determine whether the Statue of Liberty constitutes "political messaging."
"I think there's two elements to the rules around this one," said Kit McConnell, the IOC sports director. "There's the Olympic ones, which are obviously very clear about what marks and symbols can appear on training equipment ... Those are well-known and consistent between Games. And there's also the technical regulations of an international federation ... The one you've raised I'm not specifically aware of, but the rules are well-known by [national organizing committees] and individual athletes."