American medalists reprimanded after protests at Pan American Games
The two US athletes who demonstrated during separate National Anthems at a regional sports competition earlier this month have been put on probation for 12 months.
US Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hirshland wrote to hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden, saying “while I respect your perspective — and that of every athlete for whom I’m lucky enough to serve — I disagree with the moment and manner in which you chose to express your views.”
All participants signed agreements not to make any political, religious, or racial remark at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Hirshland’s letter warned the two athletes another code violation could result in “more serious sanctions” than for an athlete in good standing.
Both athletes can still participate in sanctioned events. Berry will take part in the world track and field championships next month in Doha, Qatar.
CNN has reached out to Berry and Imboden through their sports federations but neither individual responded immediately.
Berry’s agent told CNN she is not doing interviews and wants to focus on her training.
“She wants no distractions as her goal is to medal for the USA in the women’s hammer, something which has never been done before,” John Nubani wrote in an email to CNN.
After her protest of a raised fist, she told track and field website FloTrack: “I know what I did, and I know I broke the rules, and I’ll make that sacrifice. I’m honored to make that sacrifice.”
Berry raised her fist in the air and bowed her head and Imboden knelt on his right knee while they each were on a medal podium.
Taking a knee during the national anthem became a form of civil protest after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat then took a knee during the National Anthem throughout the 2016 football season in protest of police brutality and injustice against people of color.
After he knelt Imboden said: “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, 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,” he said.
Imboden, 26, is ranked as the world’s second-best in the foil event, and won a bronze medal in the men’s individual foil on Tuesday. He helped the US win gold in the men’s foil team event.
As Imboden knelt, his teammates Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin stood.
Berry took gold in the women’s hammer throw, and she raised her fist in the air and bowed her at the end of the National Anthem in protest. It was a protest reminiscent of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.
“Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” she told USA Today. “It’s too important to not say something.”
The probationary period would include the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which begin July 24.
CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.