U.S. athletes punished for protesting at Pan American Games

National News

Two U.S. athletes have been punished for protesting on the medal stand during the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. According to letters from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) obtained by The Associated Press, fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry were handed a 12-month long probation for their actions.

Earlier this month, Imboden took a knee and Berry raised her fist on the podium during the medal giving ceremony. USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote the letter Tuesday notifying them of their probation and noted that protesting at future competitions  — including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo — could come at a bigger cost.

TOPSHOT – US’ Race Imboden(L) kneels next to Nick Itkin(C), and Gerek Meinhardt during the national anthem at the Men’s Foil Team medal ceremony in Fencing, at the Lima Convention Center during the Pan American Games Lima 2019 in Lima on August 09, 2019. (Photo by Jose SOTOMAYOR / Lima 2019 / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSE SOTOMAYOR/AFP/Getty Images)

“It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient,” Hirshland wrote in the letter.

“We recognize that we must more clearly define for Team USA athletes what a breach of these rules will mean in the future,” Hirshland added. “Working with the (athletes and national governing body councils), we are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games.”

The organization that oversees the Pan Am Games, Pan American Sports Organization, follows the rules of the Olympic Charter, which bans any kind of demonstration — political or religious — at its games. 

Both athletes are eligible for the Olympics next year, which will be months before a contentious presidential campaign. 

Imboden, who won a gold and bronze medal at the Pan Am Games, said he kneeled because he was protesting racism, mistreatment of immigrants and President Trump’s rhetoric. “We must call for a change,” he tweeted

Berry, who placed first in the hammer throw, said she was protesting social injustice in America and that it was “too important to not say something.”

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