The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is investigating Team USA athlete Raven Saunders, whose protest that involved making an “X” with her arms while standing on the winner’s podium may have broken official IOC rules. Olympians who break committee rules “may be subject to the IOC’s disciplinary proceedings.”
The Score tweeted an image of Saunders’ protest from the podium.
According to Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the IOC is “fully supportive of freedom of expression,” allowing athletes to express their views in a number of areas, including during interviews, at team meetings and on social media. However, Olympians are explicitly restricted from expressions during medal ceremonies, on the field of play during competition and in the Olympic Village.
The IOC is working with World Athletics, which oversees the sport, as well as the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to determine if Saunders’ demonstration on the podium violated Olympic regulations, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Monday, according to Reuters.
“Let them try and take this medal,” Saunders tweeted Sunday. “I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.”
In a statement to Reuters, the USOPC said, “As with all delegations, Team USA is governed by the Olympic Charter and rules set forth by the IOC for Tokyo 2020. 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.”
Saunders, who won the silver medal in shot put, later said the “X” symbolized the “intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”
“Shout out to all my black people, shout out to all my LGBTQ community, shout out to everybody dealing with mental health. Because at the end of the day, we understand that it’s bigger than us, and it’s bigger than the powers that be,” Saunders said.
In June, the White House defended Olympic athletes protesting the United States from the podium after Olympian Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag during the National Anthem at the Olympic trials in Oregon.
“I know [President Biden] is incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world,” Psaki responded.
“He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments when we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the constitution, to peacefully protest,” she continued.