SC native Raven Saunders’ Olympic protest is a case of no harm, no foul

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What would you do when the world is watching?

Shot-putter and Charleston native Raven Saunders decided to make a statement.

Standing on the Olympic podium in Tokyo with a silver medal hanging from her neck, Saunders raised her arms, crossing them to form an X. She told NBC news that the gesture represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

Her actions caused no disruption or chaos, but Saunders is under scrutiny for violating the Olympics’ rule against demonstrations.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter reads, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Now, political protests at Olympic and other sporting events are nothing new. Athletes are, after all, people with values and beliefs and inevitably some find the opportunity to express their beliefs in front of a large audience hard to resist.

Standing on that podium puts Olympic athletes in a unique position. In that moment, with the world’s press watching, they have a platform many would envy.

While the International Olympic Committee is looking into Saunders’ actions, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement that Saunders’ gesture did not breach its rules.

“As with all delegations, Team USA is governed by the Olympic Charter and rules set forth by the IOC for Tokyo 2020,” the USOPC said in a statement sent to Reuters. “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.”

Athletes who participate in the Olympics agree to do so under the IOC rules and the IOC will make the final determination of what repercussions Saunders’ might face.

In this particular instance, we would ask the IOC to consider that Saunders’ made no vulgar gestures. She didn’t spout hatred or anger. She did not incite and promote violence.

Anticipating what may come, Saunders Tweeted, “Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.” The Tweet ended with the “face with tears of joy” emoji.

When athletes opt to use that place on the podium as a platform for a cause, each case must be considered individually.

Here we have a case of no harm, no foul.

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