United States Olympic fencer Race Imboden was representing the USA at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. While Imboden helped the team earn gold in team foil, it was what happened at the medal ceremony that generated the most attention.
While accepting his gold medal with his teammates, Imboden took a knee at the top of the podium.
Following his gesture, the fencing prodigy took to social media to explain the reason he protested in that moment. For Imboden, it had to do with the ongoing racism and gun violence in the country which was amplified by multiple mass shootings, including a hate-filled attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas where Mexican immigrants were targeted.
“We must call for change,” Imboden wrote in a statement on his social media accounts. “This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home Gold and Bronze. My pride however has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart.
“Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list. I chose to sacrifie [sic] my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed. I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change.”
While his protest was well-received by the general public, Imboden could face some consequences from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for his decision to kneel on the podium.
According to the committee, Pan Am Games athletes make a commitment to refrain from political demonstrations.
“In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC,” USOPC spokesperson Mark Jones said in a statement, via NBC Sports. “We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honor his commitment.”
The 26-year-old fencer won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and has a whopping 9 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in his career at the Pan American Championships.