TOKYO — American silver medalist Raven Saunders offered the highest-profile protest yet at these Olympics on Sunday night.
Saunders, who competed in the shot put, raised her arms over her head in an "X" as she, gold medalist Lijiao Gong and bronze medalist Valerie Adams posed for photographers. She stood with her hands in front of her during the anthem.
Saunders told the Associated Press that the symbol represented "the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet."
While the IOC did relax its Rule 50 before the Tokyo Games, saying athletes could speak up in media conferences or during introductions, IOC chief Thomas Bach reiterated that athletes could not protest on the medal stand.
Last month he told the Financial Times, "The podium and the medal ceremonies are not made . . . for a political or other demonstration. They are made to honor the athletes and the medal winners for sporting achievement and not for their private [views].
"The mission is to have the entire world together at one place and competing peacefully with each other. This you would never manage if the Games [became] divisive."
Saunders, who is Black, queer and battles depression and is open about all three, spoke at length after her medal-winning performance, saying she wants to help shine a light on people around the world who are fighting and "don't have a platform to speak up for themselves."
Bach has threatened sanctions for athletes who protest on the podium, though it is unclear what the sanctions would be. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee allowed protests at its Trials for these Games, but once at the Olympics athletes are under IOC rules.
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