American Pan American Games athletes Race Imboden and Gwen Berry both protested on stage in Lima, Peru and were sentenced to 12 months of probation for their actions.
The head of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee warned of harsher punishments in the future to any athletes who might protest onstage, The Washington Post reported. Imboden took a knee on the podium after he helped the U.S. men’s foil team win gold and Berry raised a fist and bowed her head as a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” neared its close.
To compete, all of the Pan American Games athletes had to agree to not do any political demonstrations.But Imboden, considering what is happening in the U.S. right now, was not able to resist.
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In a Twitter post the day of his protest, Imboden said that while he was “honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games,” he felt compelled to present a “call for change.”
“My pride … has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart,” the 26-year-old fencer wrote. Among the issues Imboden said he was protesting were “Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate.”
Imboden has been open about his dedication to his country as well as the horror he feels regarding the current state of affairs.
“For me to kneel during the anthem, it’s the hardest place for me to get to in my sport — the top of the podium,” Imboden told The Post earlier this month. “So to sacrifice that moment for a bigger cause was why I chose to do that.”
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Berry, 30, told NBC Sports that her raised fist was “just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year.”
“A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war, or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that,” she added. “I just know America can do better.”