On Sunday when Raven Saunders, a 25-year-old shot putter won the silver medal in the 2021 Olympics, they took the occasion to demonstrate her support for the oppressed communities. Saunders raised her hands to form an ‘X’ which she said represented ‘the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.’
The athlete, who comes from the Black community and identifies as gay is nicknamed the “Hulk” after the marvel superhero, is an avid supporter of LGBTQ rights. Saunders, expressed her solidarity with the oppressed groups as she displayed her sign of protest to the cameras. She said it was her intention to represent ‘people all around the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak up for themselves.’
Earlier, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had relaxed the ban on protests, allowing the participants to express their views during press conferences, and peaceful protests before the competition. However, it has maintained a strict restriction to protesting on the medal podium.
The relaxation last month to IOC’s rule 50 allowed athletes to make gestures on the field of play without causing disruption and also ensuring respect for fellow participants. It also stated that the disciplinary consequences for any such demonstrations will be ‘proportionate to the level of disruption and the degree to which the infraction is not compatible with Olympic values.’
In other similar instances, the British Women’s soccer team took a knee on the first day of the Olympics to protests against racism and discrimination. This was reciprocated by their opponents representing Chile. Olympics has often been a platform for political and human rights protests, at times leading to players being debarred from the tournament.
Following Saunders’ demonstration, the IOC is in contact with World Athletics, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) as well. It remains unclear as to what penalties Saunders might face as IOC investigates the protests.
Saunders who made her first debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, has often spoken up on the importance of mental health and the need for this generation of people to pay attention to it. ‘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,’ said Saunders, reiterating that the youth needs to start making their mental health a priority.
Saunders has previously said that ‘when it comes to people’s voices there’s very little you can control,’ and with her latest gesture, Saunders will continue to serve as an inspiration for those who are oppressed and those who would like to make a change.