Eugene, OR – U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the American flag when the National Anthem began playing as she stood on the medal platform at the U.S. Olympic trials in Oregon on Sunday.
Barry, who on June 27 barely clinched the third spot on the U.S. team going to the Tokyo Olympic Games, turned sideways to face the stands rather than the flag when “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play, the New York Post reported.
Then she held up a shirt that read “Activist Athlete” and put it over her face as she faced the flag.
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.
“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.”
But USA Track and Field Spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said the timing of the National Anthem had nothing whatsoever to do with Berry, ESPN reported.
“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today,” 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.”
The music started at 5:25 p.m. the day before, according to ESPN.
“I was thinking about what I should do. Eventually I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head,” Berry said.
She criticized the Olympic trial organizers for the move, the New York Post reported.
“It was real disrespectful,” Berry 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.”
The 1st amendment gives Gwen Berry the right to completely embarrass herself here. That same amendment gives me the right to rip her for doing it. pic.twitter.com/5W8IUExeX7
— Miles Commodore (@miles_commodore) June 28, 2021
Berry was put on probation after she raised a fist on the podium in 2019.
But then in December of 2020, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) caved to intense criticism and said that it wouldn’t sanction athletes who raised a fist or took a knee on the medal stand at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
USOPC said it agreed with the calls from American athletes that asked the committee to change the rule prohibiting inside-the-lines protests at the Olympic Games, according to ESPN.
The provision known as Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter has been under scrutiny and International Olympic Committee (IOC) has told its athlete commission to explore other options, according to The Washington Post.
Rule 50 was what led to U.S. Olympic medal sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos being kicked out of the 1968 Olympics for making Black Power salutes with gloved fists in the air on the podium.
USOPC said it acted on recommendations from the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice, a group of U.S. athletes and Olympic stakeholders calling for the USOPC and IOC to permit athletes to protest in the upcoming games, The Washington Post reported.
“Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values,” the Council on Racial and Social Justice said the statement, according to ESPN.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) didn’t agree with the U.S. committee and in May, upheld Rule 50 and said athlete protests and political messages will be banned from fields of play, medal podiums, and the opening and closing ceremonies at the Tokyo games this summer.
The IOC further said the slogan “Black Lives Matter” would could not be worn by athletes at Olympic venues, the Associated Press reported.
Dan Crenshaw calls for Gwen Berry to be removed from the Olympic team because she turned away from the flag pic.twitter.com/c2xWKLXPPJ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 28, 2021
On Monday, U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) called for Berry to be removed from the U.S. Olympic team.
“We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team,” Crenshaw 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.