U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders, who won the silver medal at Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, raised her arms in an 'X' formation over her head in a symbolic protest as she posed for photographers with her co-medalists on the podium. Saunders' actions are in violation of the Olympic ban on medal ceremony protests on podium.
However, Saunders' didn't think twice about doing the unthinkable as she could not face strict punishment for her actions. Saunders has been very open about her difficult journey to the Tokyo Games as an African American athlete and member of the LGTBQ+ community.
All in Protest
Saunders, 25, who won silver in the shot put with a throw of 19.79 meters, took the podium to do the unexpected on Sunday. She stepped off the podium during the medal ceremony and made the 'X' formation over her head as photographers focused at her.
Later, she explained the 'X' formation protest as "the intersection where all people who are oppressed meet," according to AP in a report published in nbcolympics.com.
The self-proclaimed "Hulk" of track-and-field is black and openly gay. She has been vocal about her struggles with depression. Saunders said that she hoped to honor "people all around the world who are fighting and don't have the platform to speak up for themselves," according to the BBC.
"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," she said.
However, it was in violation of the International Olympic Committee's "Rule 50" prohibition on medal ceremony protests and Saunders could now face penalty for her actions.
It isn't clear what penalties Saunders could face for bring politics to the podium. Saunders, a three-time college champion during her time at Ole Miss, is among the 180 LGBTQ athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics. According to Outsports, the number is more than triple of what Brazil saw five years ago.
"I really think that my generation really don't care," Saunders said. "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."
Saunders, whose hair is dyed purple and green, made heads turn in the qualifying round on Friday when she wore a "Joker" face mask during competition. At Sunday's final, she competed in "Hulk" mask in reference to her nickname.
"For everything I've been through mental health-wise, injuries, you know, everything like that ... being able to really invest everything I've had mentally and physically and to be able to walk away with a medal, and be able to go out here and really inspire so many people ... I really just hope that I can continue to inspire and motivate," she had said before the finals speaking about the mental issues she had to deal with.