Probation for US protest athletes

NEW YORK • American athletes Race Imboden and Gwen Berry have been placed on probation for 12 months for their political protests at the Pan American Games, USA Today reported on Tuesday.

Fencer Imboden took a knee and hammer thrower Berry raised her fist when the US national anthem played during their medal ceremonies earlier this month, violating an agreement US athletes sign before competing internationally.

The probation means both athletes will still be eligible to compete at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, wrote to both athletes informing them of the decision and said future protests would be met with stiffer punishments.

In the letters obtained by USA Today Sports, she said that they were considered to be in "a probationary period for the next 12 months".

She wrote: "This means you could face more serious sanctions for any additional breach of our code of conduct than might otherwise be levied for an athlete in good standing."

After his protest in Peru, Imboden took to Twitter to explain his actions and to "call for change".

"This week I am honoured to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home gold and bronze," he wrote.

"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 sacrifice my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed.

"I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change."

Athletes taking a knee has become a way of protesting injustice in the United States. The protest was first started in 2016 by ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to social injustice and police brutality.

Berry's raised fist recalled memories of what was perhaps the Olympics' most famous protest when sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their clenched fists during the 200m medal ceremony at Mexico 1968.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2019, with the headline 'Probation for US protest athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe