Two American athletes competing in the Pan American Games decided it was more important to play social justice warriors overseas against the United States than it was to honor the competition’s rules about individual behavior. Now they are facing possible sanctions for their podium protests.
For a little background, the Pan American Games (Pan Am) is a major sporting event in the Americas featuring summer sports. Thousands of athletes compete in a variety of competitions. The competition is limited to athletes from nations of the Americas. The competition takes place every four years, one year before the Summer Olympic Games. This year the Pan Am Games were held in Lima, Peru.
Americans Race Imboden, a fencer, and hammer thrower Gwen Berry held their own personal protests against America – Imboden took a knee at the podium and Berry raised her fist during the medal ceremony. Both protested President Trump without actually saying his name. The audience was a smaller one than will be the one for the Summer Olympics in 2020 if they compete in that.
Imboden said his pride in representing America was “cut short” due to “multiple shortcomings” of America. Imboden earned a bronze medal in the individual men’s foil event and the fencing team took home the gold medal. In 2017 he took a knee in Egypt at a World Cup event throughout the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ along with a teammate.
We must call for change.
This week I am honored 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, pic.twitter.com/deCOKaHQI9
— Race Imboden (@Race_Imboden) August 10, 2019
and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list.
I chose to sacrifie 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.
— Race Imboden (@Race_Imboden) August 10, 2019
The irony of Imboden’s selfish act of protest versus events in Hong Kong using the American flag as a symbol of freedom was not lost on one commenter:
You could learn what Freedom is all people who are facing true oppression Protestors in Hong Kong are using the American flag and anthem as a symbol of freedom to rally.pic.twitter.com/7JmvRPlDQA
— Rome on the Potomac (@BillBaker63) August 12, 2019
Ms. Berry, a 30-year-old African-American hammer thrower used an older protest gesture during her medal ceremony. She raised her fist in defiance instead of taking a knee. She is on the team that will go to the track and field world championships next month. Ms. Berry’s tweets are protected – she has made hers a private Twitter account.
Berry raised her fist as America’s national anthem was played to honor her win in the hammer throw.
She called out injustice in America ‘and a president who’s making it worse’.
‘It’s too important to not say something,’ Berry told USA Today.
The 30-year-old’s protest on Saturday – which she told US media was aimed at ‘extreme injustice’ – echoed the iconic raised fist protest of US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
‘Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.’
The actions of these two self-indulgent athletes now challenge the Pan Am Sports Organization and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s resolve to enforce rules that all of the athletes agree to uphold. The competing athletes agree to terms of eligibility which include refraining from political protests. Now the USOPC is considering possible sanctions against the two protesting athletes.
‘Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,’ USOPC spokesman, Mark Jones, told the Daily Mail.
‘In these cases, the athletes didn’t adhere to the commitment they made to the organizing committee and the USOPC. We respect their rights to express their viewpoints, but we are disappointed that they chose not to honor their commitment.’
Let’s be clear about what is going on here. Two American athletes, privileged to represent their country overseas in a multi-national competition decided their own personal feelings about the President of the United States and other fellow Americans were more important than the rules to which they agreed upon to participate in the competition. Where is the good sportsmanship? Where is the moral integrity in keeping their word? Their triggered feelings about the most powerful man in the free world outweighed their good judgment in their own personal behavior. Worst of all, they chose to make personal protest statements overseas, outside of the country that they were protesting. Whatever happened to leaving personal political disagreements at the water’s edge?
This is nothing but attention-grabbing in hopes of personal gain. Hey, it worked for Colin Kaepernick. He made millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships from woke marketers and scored a sweet million-dollar book deal, too. Soccer player Megan Rapinoe is cashing in on her violation of soccer’s World Cup rules, too, and now the U.S. Soccer Federation is lobbying 2020 Democrat presidential candidates. Gooooooooal! Bad behavior is rewarded, especially if it is aimed at the bad Orange Man. Imboden took a knee while his teammates Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin remained standing. Two of the three of America’s team medal-winning male fencers did the right thing.
The USOPC issued the same statement after hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fist. Will either be held accountable for their actions? I’ll not hold my breath.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw weighed in with his opinion, one held by lots of Americans who see this kind of behavior from privileged Americans living their dreams yet unable to control themselves from the desire to tarnish the experience for others. They demonize America and turn off sports lovers.
If you think this is “sacrifice”, you are delusional.
All you’ve done is haphazardly denounced the entirety of our country because of its imperfections.
You and your fellow athletes have only succeeded in politicizing one of the few things that still unite us: sports. https://t.co/Wpi9qdlQo3
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) August 12, 2019
One opinion writer in USA Today is cheering the protesters on and hoping for more. Because, of course. Athletes no longer “have the luxury” of remaining silent.
But this country, already badly wounded by partisan divide and hate-mongering, seems to have reached a tipping point in the past week. Are we going to continue to bury our heads along with our dead from yet another mass shooting? Are we going to allow President Donald Trump to put our fellow citizens in further danger with his racism and bigotry? Are we going to let Trump and all those who bleat about loving America dismantle our rules of law and democratic traditions?
Of course it is easier to sit in silence and either let others speak out or hope that the madness will eventually pass. We no longer have that luxury, though, and Imboden and Berry recognize there will come a time when we are held to account for the ugliness in this country, and they want no doubts about where they stood.
What this opinion writer fails to understand is that a nation “badly wounded by partisan divide” is not strengthened by these individual gestures. These actions are selfish self-promotion by two snowflakey Millenials. The fall-out further divides the country.
I’ll end on this most excellent note. Olympic champion Simone Biles has hit a historic accomplishment in her gymnastic career by successfully performing a triple-double on her floor routine at the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, Mo. I watched her do it on television and I cheered, along with everyone else who witnessed her performance. She is the first woman to do so. Simone is an amazing young woman.