Raven Saunders, who won a silver medal in the women’s shot put at the Tokyo Olympics, announced she was stepping away from social media following the death of her mother.
Clarissa Saunders died while in Orlando with family members, it was reported. The family didn’t release a cause of death.
Raven Saunders shared a video of her mother being interview on Friday just before the shot put event. Clarissa Saunders was in Florida to attend an Olympics watch party with other Team USA athletes’ families. She said it was “a bummer” that she couldn’t be in Tokyo to see her daughter win in person. But she couldn’t because the Olympics banned spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Clarissa did cheer on Raven from the stands at the 2016 Rio Games, where the now 25-year-old placed fifth.
USA Track and Field tweeted their condolences to Saunders after the announcement.
“The USOPC & USATF would like to offer Raven our most sincere condolences. Her mother leaves behind an incredible legacy in her daughter for who we are so proud and grateful to call our teammate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Saunders family during this difficult time.”
The Charleston, S.C., native stood out amount among her peers with her Joker mask and big personality. She said she wanted to be a role model for kids who feel different or left out.
“For me, just being who I always aspired to be. To be able to be me and not apologize for it. Show the younger generation that no matter what they tell you, no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you,” she told CNN. “People tell me not to do tattoos and piercings, but now look at me, I’m popping.”
Raven Saunders Explains Her Podium Protest
Raven Saunders, nicknamed The Hulk, became a flashpoint at the Olympics when she made an “X” gesture with her arms during the medal ceremony. It was reminiscent of American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Games to protest racial inequality in the United States. Olympic officials expelled Smith and Carlos, winners of these gold and bronze medals respectively, from the Games for the gesture.
Saunders explained to the TODAY that the “X” stood for the intersection “where all people who are oppressed meet.”
“For a lot of the athletes, we talked about what was going to be our stance and what do we stand for,” Saunders explained. “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.”
US Olympic officials told athletes they couldn’t protest on the medal stand. But after reviewing her gesture and comments, officials said her “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.”