Gold Medalist fencer Race Imboden knelt as the US national anthem played at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, as a sign of protest against racism, gun control and mistreatment of immigrants.
'The Star-Spangled Banner' was played before games and sports throughout the course of the Second World War, and by the time the war was over, the pregame singing of the national anthem had become cemented as a baseball ritual, after which it spread to other sports.
Of course, we know that of late, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the code of conduct that is to be followed during a rendition of the national anthem. Politically motivated protests of the national anthem gained prominence in the National Football League after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, as opposed to the tradition of standing. He was doing it in response to police brutality in America, before his team's third preseason game of 2016. Kaepernick sat during the first two preseason games, but he went unnoticed.
Fencer @Race_Imboden on why he took a knee on the podium at the Pan Am Games: “I think that the catalyst was certainly the shootings this past week...being an athlete who’s on the road a lot and seeing the terrible things that are happening and wanting to evoke change.” pic.twitter.com/5ZkeBsIP5z— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) August 11, 2019
Something entirely different took place, however, at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. On Friday, American gold medalist fencer, Race Imboden chose to kneel when the national anthem was played. He shared his reasons for doing so in a tweet where he said that he knelt as a sign of non-violent protest against several pressing issues in the United States today. "We must call for change," he tweeted afterward along with a photo.
We must call for change.— Race Imboden (@Race_Imboden) August 10, 2019
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, pic.twitter.com/deCOKaHQI9
"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 (sacrifice) 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," he said.
Imboden was the only one who knelt for the anthem though. His teammates Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin stood tall but did not disrespect the anthem in any way. As the anthem played, members of the Brazilian team (who finished 2nd-Silver) saluted the winners (America) while bronze-placed Canada stood quietly.
'We must call for change'— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) August 10, 2019
Team USA fencer Race Imboden took a knee as a form of silent protest during the team foil medal ceremony 2019 Pan American Games. pic.twitter.com/Ft7XYZtPxV
US Olympic and Paralympic Committee spokesman Mark Jones said in a statement to CNN Sports that "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 these cases, the athletes didn't adhere to the commitment they made to the organizing committee and the USOPC."
"We respect their rights to express their viewpoints, but we are disappointed that they chose not to honor their commitment. Our leadership is reviewing what consequences may result," Jones said.
Kneeling during our national anthem doesn’t prevent mass shootings; It does disrespect the soldiers who sacrificed their lives & fought for our #freedom. Find a productive ORIGINAL way to make a change. Give a speech, donate, teach, run for office. Kneeling is #lazy— Dr Janette Nesheiwat (@DoctorJanette) August 12, 2019
Many veterans would feel differently, remember who gave @Kaepernick7 the idea, a military man, ppl can use whatever platform they want to promote change,leave ppl alone!! Kneeling does NOT disrespect soldiers who sacrifice their lives, many encourage it!!!— Melinda-N-Eric (@melinda_wvu) August 12, 2019
That's unfortunate for Imboden who could be facing disciplinary action as all participants did sign agreements to not make any political, religious or racial remarks during the course of the entire event. However, Imboden was not the only American to protest something at the Pan American Games.
Women's hammer-throw Gold medalist Gwen Berry raised her fist in the air at the end of the national anthem in solemn protest. "Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who's making it worse," she told USA Today on Saturday night. "It's too important to not say something."
As a military retiree who has traveled across this globe for 23 years in God forsaken places “defending” the U.S. Constitution, I wholeheartedly support his right to peacefully protest.— Travis Armstrong (@TAStrong70) August 11, 2019
In November 2017, the California Chapter of the NAACP called on Congress to remove "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the national anthem. Alice Huffman, California NAACP president said: "it's racist; it doesn't represent our community, it's anti-black."
The third stanza of the anthem, which is rarely sung and few know, contains the words, "No refuge could save the hireling and slave, From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:", which some interpret as racist. The organization was still seeking a representative to sponsor the legislation in Congress at the time of its announcement.
Apparently many see a knee as disrespect, not protest! Thanks to those who serve, and to those who protest as is their right!— Michael E. Hoskins (@Trainframephoto) August 11, 2019