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In this Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 photo, released by Lima 2019 News Services, Race Imboden of the United States takes a knee, as teammates Mick Itkin and Gerek Meinhardt stand on the podium after winning the gold medal in team's foil, at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. "Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list" of America's problems, Imboden said in a tweet sent after his medals ceremony. "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. (Jose Sotomayor/Lima 2019 News Services via AP)

Race Imboden is an American fencing competitor. He's really good at what he does.

Gwen Berry is an American track and field athlete specializing in the hammer throw. She also is very good at what she does.

In fact, they each won medals in their fields last weekend at the Pan-Am Games, the red-headed sideshow to the Olympic Games.

Cool, right?

Wrong.

Imboden took his moment in the sun to take a knee on the medal stand. Berry likewise made her gold-medal stand about social commentary, bowing her head and raising a clenched fist.

some text Jay Greeson

Cool, right?

Wrong. But not for the simple ways you may think.

Regular readers around these parts are well aware that I understand athletes' rights to refuse a White House invitation, or Colin Kaepernick's right to kneel whenever he so desires.

I don't necessarily agree with those decisions, but my agreement does not infringe on the rights of others to do so.

Here's Imboden's tweet for why he took a knee during his trips to the medal ceremonies over the weekend: "We must call for change. 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."

OK, but making the final moment about himself and his opinions — not unlike Berry making this about her views — is worse than troubling.

Their weekend about-me protests are different from those of Kaepernick and the White House boycotters, beyond the fact that these athletes were representing their country, which is paying for their training, travel and everything in between.

Before the PanAm Games, according to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Vice President Mark Jones, was a commitment from every athlete not to do exactly what they did.

So while some may think grandstanding about social issues on the medal stand makes you one thing, I disagree.

These particular protests did not make Imboden or Berry a protestor or a patriot.

Their protests made them liars.

Here are Jones' quotes in a statement: "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 are reviewing what consequences may result."

It's clear Imboden and Berry looked at the commitment, decided to lie about it, ignore their commitment to it, take the medal for personal gratification and then magnify that with personal statements.

The issue is clear, and the question has an easy answer.

Kick them off the teams, period.

What is the foundation of every successful "team" — sports, business, family, whatever — even in individual sports?

Trust.

And those athletes either punched a hole in that trust or kneeled — and pooped — on that trust.

That's putting the "I" in issue, for sure.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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