Raven Saunders made protest sign on Olympics medal podium. Now SC native faces criticism

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After locking down the silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, women’s shot putter Raven Saunders – a Black athlete who is of the LGBTQ community — lifted her arms while on the podium and formed an “X” with her arms.

Now, the Charleston native facing scrutiny for the gesture.

China’s Lijia Gong, center, poses with her gold medal after winning women’s shot put next to Raven Saunders, of the United States, left, silver medal, and New Zealand’s Valerie Adams, bronze medal.
China’s Lijia Gong, center, poses with her gold medal after winning women’s shot put next to Raven Saunders, of the United States, left, silver medal, and New Zealand’s Valerie Adams, bronze medal.

According to the Associated Press, Saunders explained that the sign is “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

Now the International Olympic Committee is “in contact with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee regarding the episode” since Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter does not allow politic gestures at the games, Yahoo News said.

Saunders responded to the criticism Sunday on Twitter.

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“Let them try and take this medal,” she said in a quote tweet. “I’m running across the border though I can’t swim.”

In a statement sent to Reuters, the USOPC said that the athlete didn’t break any rules with the sign.

“Per the USOPC’s delegation terms, the USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Raven Saunders’ peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that happened at the conclusion of the ceremony was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration,” the statement said.

Saunders said that she wishes to be a role model for those like her, CNN reported.

“For me, just being who I always aspired to be, to be able to be me and not apologize for it (and) show the younger generation that no matter what they tell you, no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you,” she said according to CNN. “People tell me not to do tattoos and piercings, but now look at me, I’m popping.”

Many support Saunders, including U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, who posted a graphic of the shot putter making the “X” along with a quote Saunders had posted on her social media in her Instagram story.

Simone Biles’ Instagram story supporting Saunders.
Simone Biles’ Instagram story supporting Saunders.

“Gave EVERYTHING for this. If you are BLACK, LGBTQIA+, Or mentally Struggling. This one is for you,” the quote on the graphic said.

The athlete is a champion for mental health awareness and has said she has struggled with depression, The State reported.

“I’m better now. I still suffer from depression. It’s one of those things that doesn’t go away, but when I look at life and all that I’ve been through, and all that I’ve dealt with, and all that I’ve overcome — when I step into that stadium, I can do anything,” Saunders said in a mini-documentary.

Saunders won the silver medal on Saturday after finishing with a distance of 19.79 meters, CNN said.

Silver medal! Charleston’s Raven Saunders shines at Tokyo Olympics

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