US athletes face Olympic sanctions after kneeling and raising fist on podium at Pan American Games

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said it was considering possible sanctions for two athletes who demonstrated against injustice during the national anthem at the Pan American Games over the weekend.

Gwen Berry, a US hammer thrower who won the gold medal for her event on Saturday, raised her fist at the end of the national anthem to demonstrate against what she called “extreme injustice”.

“I love representing my country. America is a great country. It’s the best country in the world,” Ms Berry told USA Today. “However, what we are standing for right now, it is complete and utter – it’s extreme injustice.”

A day earlier, US fencing medallist Race Imboden dropped to his knee during the national anthem after winning the bronze medal at the event held in Lima, Peru

“We must call for change,” he tweeted shortly after. “This week I am honoured 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, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list.”

“I chose to sacrifie [sic] my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed,” he added. “I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change.”

In a statement, the USOPC said the pair had violated terms they agreed to in order to participation the Pan Am Games, an annual, multi-day summer sporting event. 

“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature. In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC,” Mark Jones, a spokesperson for the organisation, said in a statement to the Associated Press

“We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honour his commitment,” the statement, released before Ms Berry raised her fist on Saturday, continued. “Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”

The committee then released the same statement after Ms Berry’s event. 

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Mr Imboden had previously taken a knee during the national anthem at a a World Cup event in 2017. The demonstration became controversial in 2016 when former NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.

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