Two American athletes used their medal ceremony at the Pan American games to draw attention to social issues back home.
During multi-sport event held in Lima, Peru American fencer Race Imboden took a knee and hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fist during their medal ceremonies. Both athletes will most likely represent the U.S. at the Olympics that will be held in Tokyo in 2020 where their protests could be viewed on a much larger scale.
“Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list” of America’s problems, Imboden said in a tweet sent after his team’s foil medals ceremony. “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 raised her fist in the air as the national anthem was played to honor her win in the hammer throw. She called out injustice in America “and a president who’s making it worse.”
“It’s too important to not say something,” Berry said. “Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”
The Olympics has a long history of high-profile protests going back all the way to 1968 when sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the medal ceremony for the 200-meter dash.
Colin Kaepernick has been out of a job since he took a stand on the sidelines kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. He began kneeling before 49ers games back in 2016.
Berry and Imboden’s protests will test the Pan Am Sports Organization and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s resolve to enforce rules that restrict political protests.
In a statement on Sunday, the USOPC said that its leadership is reviewing possible consequences. Berry is on the U.S. team that will head to the track and field world championships next month.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,” the statement said. “In these cases, the athletes didn’t adhere to the commitment they made to the organizing committee and the USOPC. We respect their rights to express their viewpoints, but we are disappointed that they chose not to honor their commitment.”