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Fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry will not be punished for their protests at the Pan American Games.

By Jenna West
August 20, 2019

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials will not punish the two athletes who protested at the Pan American Games, according to USA Today.

Officials reprimanded but did not suspend fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry for protesting on the medal stand earlier this month at the games. USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland sent letters to Imboden and Berry to "applaud [their] decision[s] to be an active citizen" but remind them of the organization's policies.

Hirshland said Imboden and Berry are considered to be in "a probationary period for the next 12 months. This means you could face more serious sanctions for any additional breach of our code of conduct than might otherwise be levied for an athlete in good standing."

The letters, which were acquired by USA Today, did not mention barring the athletes from competitions, practices or related activities.

"You have made clear that you were demonstrating to bring attention to the current state of affairs in our country and to call for change. I applaud your decision to be an active citizen. It is admirable. Regardless of one's viewpoint, it is a fundamental freedom and important obligation that we each hold to participate actively in the pursuit of a better country and a better world.

"I strive to be that kind of citizen too. In fact, many of us who have chosen to work or volunteer for the Olympic and Paralympic movements do so because of the role sport plays in our society. The Olympic Movement is about using sport to make the world a more just and peaceful place. Global competitions such as the Olympic Games and the Pan American Games shine a light on the unique ability of sport to unify humanity.

"And 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. The rules we operate under as members of Team USA exist for important reasons. A prohibition on political protest is not intended to silence important voices. In fact, I am genuinely committed to helping identify better avenues for athletes to make their voices heard."

On August 9, Imboden took a knee on the podium after winning the men's foil team gold medal match with teammates Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin. Imboden posted a photo of the moment on Twitter and asked for a "call to change" in the nation while voicing his concerns over racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants and President Donald Trump. One day later, Berry raised her fist on the podium near the end of the playing of the national anthem.

The USOPC released a statement on August 11 saying it was reviewing the athletes' demonstrations for possible 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. In these cases, the athletes didn't adhere to the commitment they made to the organizing committee and the USOPC. We respect their rights to express their viewpoints, but we are disappointed that they chose not to honor their commitment."

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