Gwen Berry turned away from the US flag during the national anthem at the US Olympic Track & Field Team Trials. Patrick Smith / Getty Images Hide caption
Patrick Smith / Getty Images
Patrick Smith / Getty Images
Gwen Berry, Olympic gold medalist and third place in hammer throw on Saturday, turned from the flag at the US Olympic Athletics Championships awards ceremony while the national anthem was played.
Berry, who earned a spot on the US Olympic hammer throwing team this weekend in Eugene, Oregon, told the Associated Press she felt “settled in” after being told the anthem would be played before the medalists took the podium for the award ceremony. She turned around, put her hand on her hip and at the end of the “Star-Spangled Banner” held up an “Activist Athlete” t-shirt and draped it over her head.
“They said they would play it before we went out and then they played it when we were out,” said Berry.
According to US track and field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard, the national anthem should be played at 5:20 p.m. that day. The music didn’t start until 5:25 a.m.
“We didn’t wait for the athletes to be on the podium at the Hammer Throw Awards. The national anthem is played every day on a previously published schedule, ”she said.
Berry’s protest was addressed at the White House press conference Monday, where press secretary Jen Psaki answered a question from a reporter whether President Biden believed Berry’s actions were appropriate for an athlete representing the United States at the Olympics .
“I know (Biden) is incredibly proud to be American and has great respect for the anthem and everything it represents,” said Psaki. “He would also say that part of that pride in our country is recognizing that there are moments when we as a country fail to live up to our highest ideals, and it means respecting the constitutional right to peaceful protest . “
On Twitter, Berry posted a picture of himself turning away from the flag during the national anthem with the caption “Stop playing with me”.
She repeated the line and the photo on her Instagram and wrote, “I said what I said … I mean what I said. STOP PLAYING WITH ME !!
The unplanned protest has generated significant criticism on social media, including from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Education Department press secretary Angela Morabito, and Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw, who called for Berry’s removal from the Olympic team.
Why does the left hate America?
Sure, we have our flaws, but no nation in the history of the world has freed more people from captivity, more lifted from poverty, more bled for freedom, or more abundantly.
God bless America. https://t.co/7hH1FMzEn0
– Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 28, 2021
Berry has already used her platform to protest. On the podium for her gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, the athlete threw her fist in the air during the national anthem. At that time the move cost her sponsorships and took her off duty for 12 months.
This year, according to an open letter from US Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland, the trials have enabled “respectful demonstrations on the subject of racial and social justice.”
Berry will travel with the US team to their second Olympic Games in Tokyo, where protests and demonstrations are prohibited under Rule 50.
Josie Fischels is an intern at the NPR News Desk.