X: With eyes on Tokyo, Olympians protest oppression

Japan 2020

Second-placed USA’s Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing the women’s shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 1, 2021. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

TOKYO (NEXSTAR) — The Tokyo Olympics, already historic for pressing on amid the pandemic, have also made their mark in the number of athletes who have taken the opportunity to use the largest stage in sports to take a stand for what they believe in.

A number of women’s soccer teams knelt before their matches to protest racism, including Team USA before the bronze medal match.

“I think it’s no secret there are a lot of inequalities all over the world in every aspect of life, and I personally think it’s everybody’s responsibility to make the world a better place,” star Megan Rapinoe said.

Olympic rules say that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Some athletes protest anyway. Earlier in the games, silver medal shot putter Raven Saunders raised her arms in an X over her head as she stood on the podium. It was a symbol, she said, supporting “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

“One thing about my generation is that we’re going to speak up for things — if they’re right, they’re wrong, we’re going to speak up about them,” she said. “Honestly, at the end of the day, when you do decide to take a stand, you really can’t worry about the naysayers. You worry about the people you’re doing it for. That’s really the thing that keeps you pushing.”

The International Olympic Committee was investigating Saunders’ protest, but then her mother died and the investigation was suspended.

After winning bronze in the team fencing competition, Race Imboden used marker to draw an X on his right hand as a symbol of solitary with the oppressed.

“I also wish to draw attention of the hypocrisy of the IOC, and all of the organizations who profit so immensely off the athletes and have yet to hear their call for change,” he wrote on Twitter.

Imboden also took a knee at the Pan American Games in 2019 to protest racism, gun violence and the mistreatment of immigrants.

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