Raven Saunders Protest Investigation Suspended by Olympic Committee After Mother's Death

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Olympic silver medalist Raven Saunders’s mother has passed away, leading to the suspension of an investigation into the athlete’s protest on the medal podium. According to CNN, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the pause to the investigation after Saunders shared the news of her mother’s passing on social media.

“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,” Saunders wrote in a tweet posted August 3. “I will always and forever love you.”

Her mom, Clarissa Saunders, passed away while in Florida for an Olympic watch party, a local NBC affiliate reported August 3. Last week, Clarissa had told Live 5 News that it was a “bummer” she couldn’t be in Tokyo to cheer for Raven, but that they were cheering from the States.

The announcement of Clarissa’s death came days after Raven won the silver medal in the 2020 Olympics women’s shot put final. The second-place finish came after she had already garnered attention for her superhero-inspired personal style and dance moves. But it was a protest on the medal podium that landed her in hot water with the IOC. On the podium, Raven, who is Black and has self-described on Twitter as a “flaming gay,” held her hands over her head, crossed at the wrists to form an “X” that she said stands for the intersections of oppression.

“For a lot of the athletes, we talked about what was going to be our stance and what do we stand for,” Raven told NBC’s Today show earlier this week. “And ‘X’ pretty much represents 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, me, personally, I represent being really at that intersection.” She also told NBC that athletes in a text chain had landed on the “X” as a universal symbol.

Team USA launched a review and found no rules were broken. In a statement, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) wrote that the athlete’s “peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that happened at the conclusion of the ceremony was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.”

The USOPC and the IOC were in contact as the IOC looked into Raven’s protest, a spokesperson told reporter Christine Brennan on August 2. The same IOC spokesperson said Wednesday the committee’s investigation is “fully suspended for the time being” due to Clarissa’s death, CNN reported.

Raven has previously challenged anyone to “try and take this medal.”

Raven isn’t the first athlete to test the IOC’s strictness in enforcing its anti-protest rules. Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado was able to work an homage to Black Lives Matter into a floor routine and Germany’s women’s gymnastics team wore unitards to protest sexualization.

Sadly, Raven is also the second notable U.S. track and field star to have a family member’s death impact her Olympic journey. The death of sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s biological mother prompted her to use marijuana to cope with emotional pain, she said, resulting in her suspension from the U.S. Olympic team prior to the start of the Games. And gymnastics legend Simone Biles revealed earlier this week that her aunt passed away during the 2020 Olympics, an announcement that followed her decision to withdraw from the women’s team gymnastics competition and the individual all-around, due to mental health last week.

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue