U.S. Olympic gamers Gwen Berry and Race Imboden have each received 12-month probation for their silent social justice protests at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
The hammer thrower and fencer were both given the 12-month probation after Berry raised a fist and Imboden kneeled during the playing of the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games earlier this month. Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, issued formal reprimands to the U.S. athletes in response to their silent protesting.
Letters were sent to Berry and Imboden on Tuesday where Hirshland wrote that while the athletes’ actions were “admirable,” their protests violated Team USA rules that prohibit political protests, HuffPost reports.
“The goal of a Games that are free from political speech is to focus our collective energy on the athletes’ performances, and the international unity and harmony each Games seek to advance,” the letters read.
Hirshland warned that Berry and Imboden could “face more serious sanctions for any additional breach of our code of conduct than might otherwise be levied for an athlete in good standing.”
Just last week, the committee released a statement saying Imboden would most likely be penalized for his protest due to the USOPC’s terms of eligibility, the NY Times reports.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan-American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,” committee spokesman Mark Jones said in the statement, according to the Times. “In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC.”
After Berry raised her first one day after Imboden kneeled, the committee issued the same statement, per the news report. According to the letters sent out on Tuesday, the USOPC is working with the Athletes’ Advisory Council and the National Governing Bodies Council to define “what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games,”.
Both Berry and Imboden will be eligible to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics, Jones confirmed in an email to HuffPost on Wednesday.
Imboden took to Twitter on Aug. 9 to explain the purpose of his protest at the Pan Am Games, saying his pride in representing Team USA was “cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart.”
The Olympian cited “racism, gun control, and mistreatment of immigrations” as president as his reasons for protesting.
We must call for change.— Race Imboden (@Race_Imboden) August 10, 2019
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, pic.twitter.com/deCOKaHQI9
Imboden spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon days later and credited Colin Kaepernick for inspiring him to kneel. Imboden also recognized other historical athletes who have used their platforms to spark social change, including Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith.
Meanwhile, Berry’s raised fist was a nod to Carlos’ and Smith’s legendary salute toward civil rights at the 1968 Olympics. She told NBC Sports earlier this month that she knows “America can do better.”
“Every individual person has their own views of things that are going on,” the Olympic gold medalist said. “It’s in the Constitution, freedom of speech. I have a right to feel what I want to feel. It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”
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