LIMA – Two U.S. gold medal winners could face sanctions after staging dramatic podium protests against U.S. President Donald Trump at the Pan American Games in Lima.
Gwen Berry stunned the crowd when she raised a clenched right fist and bowed her head as the U.S. national anthem closed her gold medal ceremony for the women’s hammer.
The 30-year-old’s protest on Saturday — which she told U.S. media was aimed at “extreme injustice” — echoed the iconic raised fist protest of U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
On Friday, two-time Olympian fencer Race Imboden, 26, set the tone after ‘taking a knee’ as his team celebrated gold in the team foil event.
He was the latest U.S. sports star to follow NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protest during the U.S. national anthem before NFL games in 2016 became a national issue.
“We must call for change. This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home Gold and Bronze,” tweeted Imboden.
“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.”
Imboden had already staged a similar kneeling protest at the 2017 Fencing World Cup in Egypt.
Mark Jones, vice president of communications for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), told ESPN that the governing body was considering what sanctions it might impose.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,” Jones said in a statement to the U.S. sports network.
“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. Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”
Current athletes aren’t the only ones who have used the Pan Am Games to call out Trump, with Olympic athletics legend Carl Lewis — attending at the invitation of Lima Organizers — also weighing in.
“We have a president who is racist and a misogynist, who doesn’t value anybody but himself,” said Lewis, who was asked to weigh in on the issue of gender equality in sport.
“My mother was a pioneer. My parents were teachers and they taught us that everyone deserves the same opportunities,” said Lewis, who counts nine Olympic gold medals among his 10 total.
“Of course I’m for (equal pay) in athletics. We shouldn’t even be talking about it.”
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