Olympic Officials Face Off Over Protest Rules As U.S. Backs Shot Putter Raven Saunders In Podium Demonstration

ToplineU.S. Olympic officials may be in a collision with the International Olympic Committee Monday. The organization stated that it didn't believe Team USA's silver medallist Raven Saunders violated rules against protests at the podium. This raises questions about what will happen if American officials, who have said they won't punish athletes for their protests, are instructed to sanction Saunders.Raven Saunders, from Team United States, makes an X gesture during the medal ceremony at the Women's...The Key FactsThe United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), stated Monday that Saunders' gesture was not in violation of its rules regarding protests by athletes. The USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Saunders peaceful expression of support for racial or social justice didn't violate any rules, was respectful to her competitors, and did not occur during the awarding ceremony. The International Olympic Committee stated Monday that it was investigating the gesture in light of possible violations of its rules regarding athlete protests. This could lead to sanctions. Although the IOC has relaxed rules prohibiting any protests at the Tokyo 2020 Games they insist that they be conducted respectfully, and not on the podium during the awards ceremonies. The IOC stated that it was in touch with World Athletics over the protest. However, World Athletics does not have any rules prohibiting demonstrations and is unlikely ever to sanction them.What to WatchThe IOC has not specified how athletes who violate its protest rules will get punished. The IOC's views and rules are inconsistent with the USOPC's and the USOPC must impose any punishment if necessary. The USOPC stated that it would not sanction athletes who demonstrate at the Tokyo Games.Important QuoteSaunders stated that she made the X over her head to symbolize the intersection where all oppressed people meet. She said that at the end of it all, we know its bigger and more powerful than us, and that its greater than the powers in power. We know that there are many people who look up to us and are interested in seeing if they speak up.TangentSimone Biles from Team USA, a gymnast, has withdrew from many events in Tokyo due to mental health reasons. She supported Saunders via social media. Biles posted a photo of Saunders holding her arms cross on the podium. This image is suitable for anyone who is Black, LGBTQIA+, or has mental difficulties. Salute to all my fighters.Important BackgroundProtests are prohibited by the IOC under Rule 50 of Olympic Charter. This prohibits any demonstration or political, religion, or racial propagandism. Although there have been many protests at the 2020 Games, none have been punished. Luciana Alvarado from Costa Rica, a gymnast, took to her knees and raised her fists in the air as she recognized the Black Lives Matter movement. In the wake of the George Floyd murder, the IOC is under greater pressure to relax or remove the rule. The U.S. is lobbying for the rule to be removed before Los Angeles hosts in seven years.Continue readingRaven Saunders' X-Position Protest: What it Means and Why the IOC is Investigating (CNN).Raven Saunders puts up X on the podium to show where oppressed meet (Guardian).IOC: IOC is investigating the gesture of American athlete Saunders on the podium (Reuters).The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will ban athletes from protesting. However, the Games have a long history of political demonstrations (Time).Rule 50: An overview of protests at the Olympic Games (BBC).