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Black Athlete Gwen Berry Turns Away From The Flag While National Anthem Plays

Black Athlete Gwen Berry Turns Away From The Flag While National Anthem Plays

"I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,'' Berry said of the timing of the anthem.

Image Source: EUGENE, OREGON - JUNE 26: Gwendolyn Berry (L), third place, turns away from U.S. flag during the U.S. National Anthem (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry is coming under fire after a picture of her turned away from the American flag during the national anthem started making rounds on the internet. 

The outspoken activist had just qualified for the Olympic team at the U.S. track and field trials. The national anthem has played one time per evening for the past week at the trials being held in Eugene, Oregon. ESPN reported that on Saturday, the song started to play while outspoken activist Gwen Berry was standing on the podium after being placed third in the hammer throw. Berry thinks the whole thing was a set-up.



 

 

Berry stood on the podium, facing the stands. Her peers, DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen who placed first and second, respectively, were turned towards the American flag, with their hands on their hearts, as the "Star-Spangled Banner'' played. Berry stood beside them with a hand on her hip and fidgeting. At the end of the anthem, she raised her black T-shirt with the words "Activist Athlete" printed on the front and then draped it over her head. "I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,'' Berry said of the timing of the anthem. "I was pissed, to be honest.'' Price extended her support to her teammate and said, "I think people should say whatever they want to say. I’m proud of her."



 

 

This was an impromptu protest since the anthem is not played after every medal ceremony as it is at the Olympics. "I was thinking about what should I do," she said, as reported by the Washington Post. "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." Berry was informed by an official that the anthem would be played before she took the podium and posed for pictures. “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.”



 

 

USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said, as per The Guardian, that “the national anthem was scheduled to play at 5.20 pm. 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.” On Saturday, the music started at 5.25 pm. Social media users are criticizing Berry for her actions and demanding she pulled from representing the USA in the Olympics. "My purpose and my mission are bigger than sports," Berry said of the situation. "I'm here to represent those ... who died due to systemic racism. That's the important part. That's why I'm going. That's why I'm here today."



 

 

Berry has been consistent with her activism. Two years ago, she even protested similarly after winning the Pan-Am Games. She raised her fist on the podium in protest. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee placed her on probation for one year for the political protest which violates Rule 50 of the International Olympic Committee regulations. This is the same rule that sent sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos sent home from the Mexico City Games in 1968. This year, however, the committee changed its rules to allow protest at domestic events. The USOPC publicly and privately apologized to Berry last year. Berry will now be participating in the Tokyo Olympics.



 

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