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#pounditSunday, September 26, 2021

IOC looking into Raven Saunders’ gesture on podium

Raven Saunders

U.S. women’s shot-putter Raven Saunders made a gesture with her arms during the photo op at her medal ceremony on Sunday night, and the International Olympic Committee is looking into whether she violated the Olympic rules related to demonstration.

After she was presented with the silver medal in the women’s shot put, Saunders stepped off the podium and formed an “X” with her arms above her head. She later told reporters the gesture represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” according to ESPN’s Tom Hamilton. Saunders, who is openly gay, said she wanted to show support for “the LGBTQIA community, the Black community, people who are dealing with mental health issues — I see you, I’m here for you, and I’m standing with you.”

The IOC has long forbidden political, religious and racial demonstrations at the Olympics. That rule was loosened leading up to the Tokyo Olympics to give athletes greater freedom to demonstrate away from the field of play. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee supported Saunders and said her gesture “was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.” The IOC is now looking into it.

“As you all know, athletes are free to express themselves, it’s freedom of expression at press conferences, on social media, in the mixed zone. That remains the same,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said Monday. “We created a possibility before sport begins for people to make protest. But one thing we have noted in the survey we did (of) 3,500 athletes, including athletes from the United States, is that in all of the people we asked in that extensive survey we asked, they all wanted to protect the field of play. And that was found when we questioned athletes from all around the world — not just the U.S., but Europe, Asia, China, everywhere.”

The question, then, is whether Saunders made her “X” gesture in the appropriate setting. While she technically stepped off the podium before doing it, demonstrations are still not allowed during play or the medal ceremony.

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