The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has dropped its probe into American athlete Raven Saunders’ podium gesture after she announced that her mother had died.
Saunders won a silver medal in the women’s shot put competition in Tokyo on Sunday and, while standing on the podium, she raised her arms in an “x” gesture that she later explained represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”
“Shout out to all my black people, shout out to all my LBGTQ community, shout out to everybody dealing with mental health. Because at the end of the day, we understand that it’s bigger than us, and it’s bigger than the powers that be,” she told The Associated Press.
But Saunders’ gesture led to the IOC announcing it was reviewing the incident to determine if it violated rules prohibiting Olympic athletes from any “kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” on the field of play, including on the podium.
Mark Adams, a spokesperson for the IOC, told a press conference on Monday that “we are looking into the matter and will now consider our next steps.”
Days after winning her medal, Saunders took to social media to announce that her mother, Clarissa Saunders, had died.
Hoping off social media for a while to take care of my mental and my family. My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me. My number one guardian angel 🙏🏾 I will always and forever love you. https://t.co/XWOjE56EjI
— Raven HULK Saunders (@GiveMe1Shot) August 3, 2021
Following Saunders’ announcement, Adams said at an IOC briefing on Wednesday that the probe into her actions on the podium had been suspended.
“The IOC obviously extends its condolences to Raven and her family,” Adams said. “Given these circumstances, the process at the moment is fully suspended.”
In July, the IOC announced it was expanding opportunities for athletes to express themselves by approving Rule 50.2 Guidelines for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The new rule (pdf) provides athletes and other Olympic Games participants with guidance on the implementation of Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter, which bars demonstrations of a political, religious, or racial nature at the games.
According to the guidance, athletes are allowed to express their views in a variety of settings, including during press conferences, at team meetings, in interviews, and on the field of play prior to the start of competition.
The guidance prohibits athlete expressions during competition on the field of play, in the Olympic Village, and during official ceremonies, including medal awards.