On Friday, a member of the U.S. men’s fencing team who joined his teammates on the victory stand after they won a gold medal at the Pan American Games decided to make a political statement, taking a knee while the American national anthem was being played.
Race Imboden, whose teammates Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin both stood as the anthem was played in Lima, Peru, pontificated on Twitter that change was necessary and President Trump “spreads hate,” writing, “We must call for change. 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.”
On Saturday, Mark Jones, Vice President of Communications, USOPC, responded with a statement reading, “Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature. 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.”
On Sunday, Imboden appeared on CNN, where he stated that a lot of people believe that his sport represented white privilege and thus he felt a responsibility to speak out, that it was time that “a different face stepped up” to follow former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Imboden told CNN that he was proud to be an American, adding, “Over the last few years I’ve started to come to — I’ve had different beliefs that have kind of hurt that pride and some of those things are what I listed which is racism and mistreatment of immigrants as well as our president and the things that he’s been representing.” Asked if there were a moment that had triggered his protest, Imboden answered:
Yes, certainly. I think that the catalyst was certainly the shootings this past week, and being overseas and not being home and being an athlete who’s on the road a lot, and seeing the terrible things that are happening and wanting to evoke change. I don’t have a big platform. At the time I was trying to speak to those people who followed me. I’m a fencer, and for a lot of people I believe that I represent white privilege. And I’m in a sport that is probably mostly wealthy elite, and I thought it was time that a different face stepped up. And in this case, I followed Colin Kaepernick and the other athletes in the NFL who have been protesting, and I decided to take a knee and join them and represent and protest in my own way.
Imboden was not alone at the Pan American games to make a public protest decrying the United States; on Saturday, hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fist in the same manner as U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos did in Mexico City in 1968.
Berry ripped President Donald Trump, telling 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. It’s too important to not say something. Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”
The Daily Mail noted of Imboden that she “previously took a knee along with teammate Miles Chamley-Watson, throughout the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ at a World Cup event in Egypt in 2017.”
Video of Imboden on CNN below: