Two American athletes used their literal platforms on medalist podiums at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru to draw attention to social injustice in the United States. Fencer Race Imboden displayed his protest on Thursday in the form of taking a knee, while hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fist on Saturday. Imboden posted an explanation of his action on Twitter, where he specified the issues he was protesting against, and called on others to do the same.
Imboden later told the New York Times that he asked both of his teammates if they would be okay with his protest, and both gave their approval.
Berry gave her explanation to USA Today.
“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday night.
“It’s too important to not say something,” Berry added. “Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”
“I love representing my country. America is a great country. It’s the best country in the world,” Berry said. “However, what we are standing for right now, it is complete and utter — it’s extreme injustice.”
A spokesman from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee told USA Today that the actions of Berry and Imboden were being reviewed for possible sanctions—a risk both athletes probably understood when they went through with their respective protests. The Times published a subsequent statement from USOPC spokesman Mark Jones.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan-American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,” Mark Jones, a committee spokesman, said in the statement.
“In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC,” the statement continued. “We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honor his commitment.”
Even though it’s been over 50 years since Tommie Smith and John Carlos were also admonished for their protests on the medal podium in the 1968 Olympics, it’s very cool to see that the USOPC is still dedicated to adhering to those ridiculously antiquated principles.