U.S. Olympic fencing medalist Race Imboden took a knee on the podium to draw attention to social issues after earning team foil gold at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, on Friday.
Imboden’s gesture preceded a similar protest on Saturday by American hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning gold.
Berry and Imboden are almost sure to be disciplined for their protests on the medals stand at the Pan American Games.
“We must call for change,” wrote Imboden. “This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan-Am Games, taking home gold and bronze.
“My pride however has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart. Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list.
“I chose to sacrifice my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed. I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change.”
Berry also explained her protest.
“I love representing my country. America is a great country. It’s the best country in the world,” Berry told USA Today. “However, what we are standing for right now, it is complete and utter – it’s extreme injustice.”
Both protests contravened an agreement all athletes on the US team signed that states they will not “make remarks or release propaganda of political, religious or racial nature, or any other kind” during the Games.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,” USOPC spokesman Mark Jones to Reuters in a statement.
“In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC. We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honor his commitment.
“Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”
The USOPC released the identical statement in response to Berry’s protest on Saturday.
It is unknown what discipline Imboden could face but could impact his chances of competing at next year’s Olympics, where protests of a political nature are also banned.
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