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U.S. Olympic Officials Say Shot Putter Didn’t Violate Rules With Podium Protest, IOC Still Investigating
Raven Saunders of the United States competes during the women's shot put final at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 1, 2021. (Photo by Li Ming/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Li Ming/Xinhua via Getty Images

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said that shot putter Raven Saunders did not violate any rules for her protest while receiving a silver medal on Sunday.

Saunders crossed her arms over her head forming an “X” Sunday on the Olympic podium, a protest she later said was in support of those oppressed “all over the world.” U.S. Olympic officials said in a statement that the protest did not violate any of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) rules against protesting at the Olympics.

The IOC has not yet said whether Saunders’s protest violated rules, but it did confirm Monday that it is investigating Saunders.

“As with all delegations, Team USA is governed by the Olympic Charter and rules set forth by the IOC for Tokyo 2020,” the USOPC said, according to the New York Post.

“Per the USOPC’s delegation terms, the USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Raven Saunders’ peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that happened at the conclusion of the ceremony was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration,” it continued.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Monday that the IOC is looking into Saunders’s protest.

“We’re in contact with US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and with World Athletics,” Adams said. “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,” he continued. “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.”

In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show Monday, Saunders explained her decision to protest during the medal ceremony.

“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,” she said. “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,” she continued.

Team USA hammer thrower Gwen Berry has pledged to protest should she medal at the Olympics. Berry earlier made waves when she turned away from the American flag while the national anthem played at the Olympic trials in June.

“My third goal is just to represent, man,” she said Sunday. “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.”

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