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Volume 26 No. 109
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USOPC's Hirshland Places Pan Am Protesting Athletes On Probation

Fencer Race Imboden took a knee on the podium after helping the U.S. men’s foil team win gold
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fencer Race Imboden took a knee on the podium after helping the U.S. men’s foil team win gold
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fencer Race Imboden took a knee on the podium after helping the U.S. men’s foil team win gold
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Two U.S. athletes who staged protests on the medal stand at the Pan American Games received 12 months of probation from the USOPC, with CEO Sarah Hirshland "warning of harsher punishments in the future to any athletes who might stage similar demonstrations," according to Des Bieler of the WASHINGTON POST. Fencer Race Imboden "took a knee on the podium in Lima, Peru, after helping the U.S. men’s foil team win gold." In another instance, hammer thrower Gwen Berry "raised a fist and bowed her head as a rendition of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' neared its close." To compete at the Pan Am Games, athletes had to "agree to rules forbidding political demonstrations," and the IOC has "similar ones in place." Imboden and Berry will be "allowed to potentially compete" at the '20 Tokyo Games. However, Hirshland in letters to both athletes signaled that she "wants to head off athlete protests on what would be a vastly bigger stage." Hirshland wrote, "We are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/21).

TAKING IT EASY ON THEM: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan wrote Hirshland could have "thrown the book" at both Imboden and Berry, but she "wisely did not." Her decision might "become a template" for how leaders and organizations should "handle athlete protests in the fraught era" of President Trump. Imboden and Berry are "not suspended or otherwise punished." Hirshland, in effect, "slapped their wrists and told them not to do it again." The last thing Hirshland wanted to do was "lose the trust of the athletes who will perform on that grand stage next year in Tokyo." By writing the letter the way she did, she "likely ensured that she now has that trust, along with dollops of goodwill" (USA TODAY, 8/21).