American women's shot putter Raven Saunders, who placed second and earned herself a silver medal, made an "X" gesture with her crossed arms above her head on the Olympic podium Sunday. The motion appears to have violated the International Olympics Committee rules on demonstrations that allow Olympic athletes to "express themselves" before events but not on the podiums.
In addition to the display, Saunders was spotted donning purple-and-green hair as a nod to the "Incredible Hulk" superhero as well as the silver medalist's stage persona. It was during the photo op at the medals ceremony Sunday night when Saunders stepped off the podium and formed an "X" with both wrists.
Asked what the gesture meant and why she flashed it, Saunders explained: "It's the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet."
"I'm a black female, I'm queer and I talk about mental health awareness — I deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD, a lot — so for me personally, I represent being at that intersection," Saunders told NBC host Craig Melvin in an interview Monday on the TODAY show. "I decided to use my platform to speak up for all those people, for anyone who represents any part of or any one of those groups, especially, this medals is for [them]."
Saunders concluded: "Shout out to all my Black people. Shout out to all my LGBTQ community. Shout out to all my people dealing with mental health."
The brief moment of activism on the Olympic podium appears to be in violation of the Olympic regulations. However, it's still unclear whether any action will be taken on the part of Olympic authorities who will make the potential ruling.
Although, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said in a press statement that Saunders was "respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration."
The incident for many sparks recent memories of a similar incident involving another American athlete, outspoken hammer thrower Gwen Berry. She infamously turned away from the American flag as the US national anthem started playing while she was on the Olympic podium. Towards the end after snubbing Old Glory, she draped an "Activist Athlete" t-shirt over her head.
In an interview with Black News Channel, she later insisted that "The Star-Spangled Banner" is "disrespectful and it does not speak for black Americans."
The current Olympic Games has been controversial since the events started. Many local Tokyo residents are infuriated that the games continue to be held in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fierce debates have also been ignited over gymnastics star Simone Biles's decision to not compete. Fellow teammate Sunisa Lee expressed support for Biles as well as defended the women's gymnastic team's silver medal finish, stating that the Olympic athletes "do not owe anyone a gold medal."