U.S. Second Place Finisher Protests By Throwing Up Arms In ‘X’
TOPSHOT - Second-placed USA's Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing the women's shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 1, 2021. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
NA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Heading into the Tokyo Olympics, much of the conversation surrounding the Games focused on potential protests by athletes on the Olympic stage. So much so that the International Olympics Committee relaxed their rules on demonstrations, choosing to allow athletes to “express themselves” before events but not on the podiums.

American women’s shot putter Raven Saunders appears to have violated those new rules.

On Sunday, Saunders won the silver medal in the shot put event and raised her arms in the form of an “X” on the podium after receiving her medal. When asked what the gesture meant, Saunders said “It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

“I’m a black female, I’m queer and I talk about mental health awareness — I deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD, a lot — so for me personally, I represent being at that intersection,” Saunders told NBC’s Craig Melvin in a “TODAY” show interview Monday. “I decided to use my platform to speak up for all those people, for anyone who represents any part of or any one of those groups, especially, this medals is for [them].”

“Shout out to all my Black people. Shout out to all my LGBTQ community. Shout out to all my people dealing with mental health,” Saunders said.

Saunders is openly gay and has admitted to dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. After the event, she explained what her ultimate mission was.

“To be me. To not apologize,” she said. “To show younger people that no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you and you can accept it. People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that. But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.”

The gesture comes a day after U.S.A. hammer thrower Gwen Berry said that she would stage a protest at the Olympics if she is able to win a medal.

Berry advanced to Tuesday’s hammer throw finals, and said she has three goals for the finals — to win, to do her best, and to “represent.”

“My third goal is just to represent, man,” said Berry “Represent the oppressed people. That’s been my message for the last three years. Just making sure that I bring awareness to the situations that are going on around the world, but especially in America with oppression and social injustice, for sure.”

The IOC (International Olympics Committee) has not ruled on Saunders’ protest as of yet, though the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said in a statement that Saunders was “respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.”

When the IOC will rule is unclear, though Saunders did “dare” them to take away her medal.

“Let them try and take this medal,” Saunders wrote. “I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.”

The IOC put out a statement on Monday, stating that they are investigating the matter.

“We’re in contact with US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and with World Athletics,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams on Monday. “I don’t want to say what those next steps would be until we fully understand what is going on. We don’t want to pre-empt anything.”

“We try to repeat the views of all the athletes; we’ve given them more opportunities to express themselves. Freedom of expression in press conferences, social media, mixed zone. We’ve created possibilities before the sports begins to make protests.”

“But one thing we have noted is we did a survey with 3,500 athletes (and) all of those answered wanted to protect the field of play. It would be good if everyone could respect the views of athletes.”

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].

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