During the Olympic trials yesterday in Eugene, Oregon, the bronze winner in the hammer throw, Gwen Berry, turned away from the American flag during the playing of the national anthem, didn’t put her hand over her heart and toward the end, put a shirt over head that said “Activist Athlete” on it.
— New York Post (@nypost) June 27, 2021
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) June 27, 2021
Not only that, she then said how disturbed she was that they played the anthem at all, acting as though it was played just to annoy her.
‘I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,’ said Berry, who finished third to make her second U.S. Olympic team and is an outspoken activist on racial justice issues. ‘I was pissed, to be honest.’ [….]
‘They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,’ she said. ‘I was thinking about what I should do. Eventually I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful.’
‘It really wasn’t a message. 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,’ added Berry.
‘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.’
The anthem was played at that time according to a pre-announced schedule. But, that isn’t the point. She wanted the playing of it catered to her being disturbed by it, so she didn’t even have to hear it. How dare they play it for the country or the other athletes who want to represent their country!
If the anthem doesn’t speak for her, then why is she there, wanting to represent the United States? If you don’t want to represent our country, why are you even trying out? This isn’t just a question of someone being free to speak their mind; it’s picking a representative for the U.S. team, a person who’s supposed to represent the United States in competition, and she apparently has issues with that. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to find people who truly want to represent the United States.
This wasn’t Berry’s first such issue. She previously raised a fist in 2019 at the Pan American Games and got suspended by the U.S. Olympic Committee. But, they reversed that in March and said people could ‘protest’ at the games, including raising fists and kneeling. She even demanded that they give her an apology, and USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland complied.
Berry raised her fist during the trials on Thursday, as well.
The response of the U.S. officials to all this? ‘We’re thrilled with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games,’ said Susan Hazzard, spokesperson for USA Track and Field.
This isn’t the first Olympic athlete, about whom we have written, taking a position against the flag or the anthem. Chelsea Wolfe, a transgender athlete who is an alternate to the BMX team, previously threatened to burn an American flag at the podium, if given the chance to compete and make it there.
The U.S. also didn’t seem to have had an issue with Megan Rapinoe for her social justice posturing — despite her own questionable tweet about Asians.
It’s actually against Olympic Rules to inject politics, because the whole concept of the Olympics is supposed to be meeting on the field of sport and transcending politics. Rule 50 states that: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
But you can bet that we will be revisiting this issue again — when there’s another demonstration on the field or at the podium.