Lady Liberty will get to remain at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
That was the decision reached on Tuesday morning, when the International Olympic Committee ruled that the United States women’s hockey team goaltenders would be allowed to keep Statue of Liberty imagery on their goalie masks throughout the Winter Olympics.
On Monday, a report from USA Today said that that the IOC had ordered Team USA goalies Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby to remove the imagery from their masks because it was in violation of the committee’s rule banning “political messaging or slogans related to national identity.”
In that same report, USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer was quoted as saying “discussions are ongoing” regarding the IOC’s ruling.
Early Tuesday morning, USA Today published an update to their story, saying “the IOC has decided to allow the Statue of Liberty image to stand on the goalie masks” and that the team was notified before dressing for the game against Olympic Athletes from Russia on Tuesday.
It’s worth noting, however, that the IOC tweeted a rather different statement via their Twitter account prior to the game.
While both updates arrive at the same conclusion — the U.S. players will get to display Lady Liberty on their masks — one suggests that the IOC ordered them to be removed and later reversed that decision, while the other claims it was a “misunderstanding” and the request was never made at all.
You can decide who you want to believe here, but it wouldn’t be the first time that the IOC has tried to come down hard on goalie masks. In 2014, USA goalie Jessie Vetter had to remove a reference to the U.S. constitution from the backplate of her helmet, while Canadian-born South Korean goalie Matt Dalton was forced to remove a drawing of legendary Korean naval commander Admiral Yi Sun-shin prior to the 2018 Games.
Before the 2010 Games in Vancouver, the IOC asked USA goalie Ryan Miller to remove the words “Matt Man”– a reference to Miller’s cousin Matt, who had passed away from cancer at age 18 — from the back of his helmet. The committee has a rule that prevents writings aimed at promotion for country or individual(s). Miller fought the ruling and, eventually, the IOC relented, allowing him to keep the tribute on his mask.
It seems that the IOC prefers goalies to keep their mask designs team-based while avoiding national symbolism and political imagery, but it also seems like there’s not exactly a clear understanding of what constitutes a violation at this point. American players have featured Uncle Sam on their helmets in past Olympics, so it would’ve been fair to assume that the Statue of Liberty would be fair game heading into these Games.
And, if you really wanted to get picky, you could make the case that each country’s flag can be classified as political imagery as well. So, really, it’s all about discretion, and the committee probably came down a little too harsh on the American women this year. Or they didn’t come down on them at all, depending on who you choose to believe.