Raven Saunders’ gesture on Olympic podium legal, U.S. committee says

Tokyo — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says shot putter Raven Saunders’ gesture during her medals ceremony “was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.”

After receiving her silver medal at the Olympics on Sunday, and after the Chinese national anthem played for winner Gong Lijiao, Saunders lifted her arms above her head and formed an “X” with her wrists.

Asked by The Associated Press what that meant, she explained: “It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

Athletics - Women's Shot Put - Medal Ceremony
Shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders of the United States gestures on the podium at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on August  1, 2021. HANNAH MCKAY / REUTERS

During the International Olympic Committee’s press briefing Monday morning, spokesman Mark Adams said the IOC was in contact with the USOPC regarding the episode.

The USOPC confirmed that it was “in discussion” with the IOC and World Athletics, which governs the sport. World Athletics President Seb Coe has previously said he didn’t anticipate sanctioning demonstrations if the decision were left up to the federation.

The USOPC has stated it will not sanction athletes who demonstrate on the podium. The IOC reviewed its long-standing policy but kept the rule in place that bars demonstrations on the medals stand.

In a statement sent to the Reuters news agency, the USOPC said, “As with all delegations, Team USA is governed by the Olympic Charter and rules set forth by the IOC for Tokyo 2020.

“Per the USOPC’s delegation terms, the USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Raven Saunders’ peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that happened at the conclusion of the ceremony was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.”

Reuters pointed out that the IOC last month relaxed its rule that banned all protests by athletes. They’re now allowed to gesture on fields of play, as long as they don’t disrupt anything and do it respectfully.