Eugene, OR – It turns out that the athlete who turned her back on the American flag on the medal podium during at the U.S. Olympic trials on Sunday is sponsored by groups who advocate defunding and abolishing the police.
Hammer thrower Gwen Barry was in third place on the podium on June 27 to receive a third-place medal and a spot on the U.S. Olympic team when “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play, the New York Post reported.
But instead of placing her hand over her heart to show respect for the nation she wanted to represent in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games, Berry turned sideways to face the stands.
Then she held up a shirt that read “Activist Athlete” and put it over her face as she faced the flag, the New York Post reported.
The athletes who took First and Second Place, DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson, respectively, put their hands over their hearts and stood respectfully when the National Anthem began playing as they stood on the podium to receive their medals, ESPN reported.
Berry was outraged and claimed publicly that the National Anthem had been purposely played while she was on the medal podium.
“I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry claimed afterwards, according to the New York Post.
“I was pissed, to be honest,” the hammer thrower who raised a fist on the podium at the Pan Am Games two years ago said. “They had enough opportunities to play the National Anthem before we got up there.”
U.S. Olympic officials have since said that it wasn’t about Berry, at all, the New York Post reported.
“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today,” USA Track and Field Spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said. “We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.”
Berry, who was sanctioned after she raised her fist on the podium at the 2019 Pan Am Games, sparked outraged with the disrespectful move and multiple lawmakers and American luminaries called for her to be kicked off the U.S. Olympic team.
“We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team,” U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) told FOX News. “The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America.”
“That should be the bare minimum requirement. That you believe in the country you’re representing,” the congressman added.
But Color of Change, the racial justice group who has bankrolled Berry since September of 2020, applauded her “leadership” on the podium, FOX News reported.
“We’re proud to sponsor [Berry], to have negotiated a sponsorship with @PUMA and to continue to push corporations to support Black athletes who speak out for our communities. Grateful for Gwen’s leadership today and every day,” the organization tweeted.
Berry responded in a tweet with her thanks and a raised fist emoji.
Color of Change is a strong advocate of defunding the police, FOX News reported.
“Policing is a violent institution that must end,” Color of Change President Rashad Robinson said in a press release when the Minneapolis City Council voted to abolish the city’s police department in June of 2020 after George Floyd died as he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police.
“We imagine a country where there is enough money to educate our children, care for our sick and feed those who are financially unstable,” Robinson said. “Defunding the police allows for this vision.”
“This is not a time for tweaking or tinkering – it’s time to start over,” he continued. “Minneapolis has taken the first step towards remaking public safety in a way that protects black lives and invests in black and brown communities. We hope cities across the country follow.”
The press release said Color of Change supported the Minneapolis plan to do away with the police department and said they hoped the move would inspire the nation.
Color of Change has active defund-the-police petitions circulating at both the national and local levels, FOX News reported.
However, the organization wouldn’t confirm whether Berry supported their efforts to defund the police.
Berry claimed she was set up on Sunday at the U.S. Olympic trials, the New York Post reported.
“It was real disrespectful,” the hammer thrower, who barely clinched the third spot on the team, complained. “I didn’t really want to be up there. Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade.”
She implied that she had been tricked, the New York Post reported.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” Berry said. “But I don’t really want to talk about the Anthem because that’s not important. The Anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports. I’m here to represent those… who died due to systemic racism,” the athlete explained. “That’s the important part. That’s why I’m going. That’s why I’m here today.”