The U.S. men’s foil team came out victorious at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, on Friday. After Race Imboden, Gerek Meinhardt, and Nick Itkin received their gold medals, Imboden took a knee on the medal podium as the national anthem played. Imboden, who also earned a medal in the individual men’s foil event, then took to Twitter to explain why he decided to kneel, noting his pride had been “cut short” by the “shortcomings” he was witnessing in his country: “Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants.”
Imboden told the New York Times he was “pretty nervous” to kneel but said he spoke to his teammates before. “I asked them if they were O.K. with me doing it, and they were fine,” he said.
His action could have consequences. “Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan-American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature,” a spokesman for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement. The statement went on to note that Race “didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC.” The prospect of sanctions “scares me a lot,” Imboden said. “But I don’t regret my actions.”
Imboden wasn’t the only American athlete to carry out a protest during the Pan American Games. Hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after she won gold on Saturday. “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,” Berry told USA Today.