U.S. fencer Race Imboden kneels on podium to protest injustice and Trump

U.S. fencer Race Imboden kneels on the podium during the men's team foil medal ceremony
U.S. fencer Race Imboden kneels on the podium at the Pan American Games.
(Getty Images)

Olympic fencing medalist Race Imboden took a knee in protest of social injustice, including what he called the spreading of hate by President Trump, during his team’s foil medal ceremony at the Pan American Games.

The American knelt during the national anthem at the medal ceremony Friday to protest racial and social injustice. He won a bronze medal in the individual men’s foil event and then took gold in the team competition with Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin. American hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who won gold, followed suit on Saturday by raising a fist during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” while she was on the podium.

“This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home Gold and Bronze,” Imboden said on Twitter. “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.”


The 26-year-old Imboden competed in London 2012 and Rio 2016, where he won the team bronze medal. The 30-year-old Berry is a three-time national champion as well as a gold medalist at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival.

“It’s too important to not say something,” Berry told USA Today. “Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”

Berry and Imboden could now face punishment from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature. In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC,” Mark Jones, vice president of communications for USOPC said in a statement Saturday.

“We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honor his commitment. Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”


Imboden is the latest in a string of athletes to protest racial injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem. It began in August 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, first sat and later took a knee when the anthem was played before preseason and regular-season games to highlight police brutality, racism and social injustices. Over the next two NFL seasons, more than 200 players took part in various protests during the national anthem.

Athletes and band members from a handful of universities took part in various protests during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”in 2016, while pro athletes Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics and J.T. Brown of the Tampa Bay Lightning knelt and raised a fist, respectively, during the anthem in 2017. That same year, players from the Los Angeles Sparks chose to stay in the locker room while rivals from the Minnesota Lynx locked arms during the national anthem for Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.

Associated Press contributed to this report.