Raven Saunders' gesture gets support from USOPC; athlete challenges IOC to take medal

Raven Saunders' gesture gets support from USOPC; athlete challenges IOC to take medal

August 2, 2021

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Raven Saunders’ “X” gesture during the shot-put medals ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics “was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration,” the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said Monday.

The USOPC said it was “in discussion” with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Athletics, which governs the sport, over the gesture. IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters Monday the organization was in contact with the USOPC over the gesture.

“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 in a statement, via Reuters.

“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.”

The IOC had relaxed some of its rules regarding protests and political gestures at the Olympics but still barred demonstrations during medal ceremonies. The USOPC said it would not sanction athletes who demonstrated on the podium.

Saunders dared the IOC to “try and take this medal.”

“Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim,” she wrote.

During the photo op at her medals ceremony, Saunders stepped off the podium, lifted her arms above her head and formed an “X’ with her wrists. 

“It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” she said when asked what her protest meant.

Saunders, who is openly gay, has often wondered if the Olympics could live up to the mission of diversity. 

“To be me. To not apologize,” she said in a wide-ranging conversation after her second-place finish. “To show younger people that no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you and you can accept it. People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that. But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.”

Saunders won silver with a mark of 19.79. She finished just behind China’s Gong Lijao (20.58) and just ahead of New Zealand’s Valerie Adams (19.62).

Fox News’ Emma Colton and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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