Silver medal-winning U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders reached skywards and crossed her arms in an “X” above her head Sunday in self-proclaimed support of all “oppressed peoples” as she posed for trackside photographers.
Less than 24-hours later the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it is looking into the display because the move stood in clear defiance of the ban on medal ceremony protests.
Asked what she meant by the gesture, Saunders explained to the Associated Press: ”It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”
The self-styled “Hulk” of track-and-field is black and openly gay and has been always been keen to share her mental health struggles.
She said she hoped to honor “people all around the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak up for themselves,” the BBC said.
“To be me. To not apologize,” she explained when asked what her ultimate mission is. “To show younger people that no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you and you can accept it. People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that. But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.”
“We are in contact obviously with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee,” Mark Adams, spokesperson of the IOC said Monday. “We are also in touch with World Athletics. We are not surprisingly looking into the matter and we now will consider our next steps.”
When pushed further on the matter, Adams told ESPN: “What I would say is that we try to respect the views of all the athletes and we have given them in consultation with them more opportunities to express themselves.
Saunders, whose hair is dyed purple and green, attracted attention in the qualifying round Friday when she wore a “Joker” face mask during competition.
At Sunday’s final, she competed in “Hulk” mask in reference to her nickname.
Saunders paid tribute to her “communities” after her silver medal. She added younger people were more open to differences than previous generations.
I really think that my generation really don’t care. At the end of the day, we really don’t care. Shout out to all my black people. Shout out to all my LGBTQ community. Shout out to all my people dealing with mental health. At the end of the day, we understand it’s bigger than us and it’s bigger than the powers that be.
We understand that there’s so many people that are looking up to us, that are looking to see if we say something or if we speak up for them.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned athletes from protesting on the podium, although they are allowed to “express their views” at press conferences.
On Monday, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said they were looking into the incident but did not elaborate on what punishment, if any, the American would face.
“We are in discussions with World Athletics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee,” he added.
AFP reports updated IOC guidelines released last month say that disciplinary consequences for protests will be “proportionate to the level of disruption and the degree to which the infraction is not compatible with Olympic values.”
It said an extensive survey of athletes showed most wanted to “protect the field of play.”
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said before the games it will not sanction its athletes for protesting.