Olympic Hammer Thrower Fires Back Following Criticism For Turning Away From American Flag During National Anthem

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Let the 2020 Political Olympics begin.

On Saturday, hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the American flag during the playing of the National Anthem after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, placing third at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. 

Most would expect the moment to be filled with tears of joy after accomplishing such a feat, but Berry went in another direction. 

As the National Anthem played, Berry turned toward the stands and — toward the end of the playing — pulled up a black t-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” on the front to cover her head. 

Berry has faced outrage over the move, with some calling for her removal from the Olympic team. 

“We don’t need any more activist athletes,” Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said on “Fox & Friends.” “She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It’s the entire point.”

Berry is now firing back on social media.

“These comments really show that: 

1.) people in American rally patriotism over basic morality

2.) Even after the murder of George Floyd and so many others; the commercials, statements, and phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.”

Berry felt that the playing of the national anthem as she stood on the podium was done on purpose, claiming she was “set up.” 

“I feel like it was setup,” Berry said. “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest. I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be all right. I see what’s up.”

“It was funny because they said they were going to play it before we walked out,” Berry said according to The Washington Post. “It just happened they played it when we were out there. So, you know, it’s okay. I really don’t want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem don’t speak for me. It never has.”

The national anthem has been played every day for the past week at the Olympic track and field trials. Unlike at the Olympics, the anthem is not played as athletes receive their medals, but the hammer throwers happened to receive their medals around the time of the scheduled playing of the national anthem. 

“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today,” USA Track and Field spokesman 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 also sent out a tweet thanking her supporters, claiming that people were trying to “put words in her mouth.” 

“Thank you! I never said I hated this country! People try to put words in my mouth but they can’t,” Berry wrote on Twitter. “That’s why I speak out. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.”

Berry was at the center of controversy in 2019 when she raised a fist in the air while at the podium at the Pan-Am Games. The move led to a formal reprimand and 12-month probation from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. In April, the committee changed its stance on athletes protesting, allowing kneeling and raised fists during the national anthem.

According to ESPN, the IOC will enforce Rule 50 at the Tokyo Olympics, which does not allow demonstrations inside the lines.

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