US fencing medalist takes a knee during the national anthem at the Pan Am Games

Race Imboden, an American gold medalist fencer, participated in a silent form of protest at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru while the USA national anthem was playing.

Imboden took a knee on the podium, protesting against racism, the maltreatment of immigrants, gun control, as well as President Donald Trump.

In a statement on Twitter, he 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.

He also added: “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.”

Classed as the world second best at the aforementioned foil competition, Race Imboden, 26, took home a bronze medal in the men’s individual foil earlier last week. In addition, on Friday he was part of the successful US men’s team foil effort, securing the gold medal. It is after this achievement, however, he knelt on the podium while the USA national anthem was playing.

During his peaceful, politically fueled protest the other members of the team, namely Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin, did not participate and held their heads high.

Taking a knee has become a far-reaching political gesture, especially in the world of sport. The phenomenon has been around ever since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee throughout the 2016 football season in protest against police brutality against dark-skinned people. Many other athletes, from NFL players to amateurs, have since then followed suit, taking a knee in protest of various political issues or President Trump himself.
Nevertheless, the gold medalist fencer was not the only athlete at the Pan American Games to protest during the American national anthem. Gwen Berry, the gold medal winner in women’s hammer throw, raised her fist high in the air at the end of the anthem as a form of protest against injustices in America.

As she told USA Today: “Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse.”

Due to all participants having signed agreements to withhold from making political, religious, or racial comments during the Games, both athletes may have to deal with disciplinary action being taken against them.
Mark Jones, US Olympic and Paralympic Committee representative, has said in a statement to CNN Sports the following: “every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature. In these cases, the athletes didn’t adhere to the commitment they made to the organizing committee and the USOPC.”
Jones also added:
“We respect their rights to express their viewpoints, but we are disappointed that they chose not to honor their commitment. Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”

Lastly, as a result of both of their gestures, there has been a divide in opinions throughout the American public. On one hand, there are those appreciative of the political message, wh believe that peaceful protesting is a democratic right and see it as a just way to contribute to a much-needed cause.

However, on the other hand, there are people who absolutely disagree and find it shameful, as well as antipatriotic to ‘disrespect the American flag’ and ‘all veterans’ on an international stage. With the latter, there is the notion of “If you don’t like it here (the USA) you can leave. We don’t need you” in combination with comments implying the gesture(s) must be a publicity stunt.

Please share your thoughts and opinions on the matter in the comments below.

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