Team USA Olympian Gwen Berry says she is not anti-American and insists she should still compete in the Tokyo 2021 games after turning away from the American flag during the national anthem. Speaking to the Black News Channel about the backlash the gesture received, Berry said Tuesday: ‘I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic games, that’s why I competed and got third and made the team.’
Berry, who is sponsored by the leftist defund-the-police advocate group Color of Change, added: ‘I never said that I hated the country. I never said that. All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand for or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people. Point blank, period.’
The two-time Olympian – who turned 32 on Tuesday – explained that she takes ofense to the third line of the Star-Spangled Banner, which references slavery.
Berry said: ‘If you know your history, you know the full song of the National Anthem, the third paragraph speaks to slaves in America, our blood being slain…all over the floor. It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for b*** Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.’
The offending part of the song reads: ‘And where is that band who so vauntingly swore, that the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion. A home and a country, should leave us no more? Their blo-od has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave, From the t***or of flight, or the gloom of the grave.’
In the BNC interview, Berry says that the song is a reference to catching and beating runaway slaves. This interpretation of the lyrics is disputed. Some historians claim the words are intended as a direct threat towards slaves, whereas others cl-aim it is about manipulating b*** Americans to f**t for the British having been promised their freedom in return.
While the anthem played at the trials in Eugene, Oregon, Berry placed her left hand on her hip and shuffl-ed her feet. The athlete, who was awarded a bronze which qualified her for this year’s Olympics, took a quarter turn, so she was facing the stands, not the flag.
Toward the end, she plucked up her black T-shirt with the words ‘Activist Athlete’ emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head. Berry’s Saturday protest isn’t the first time she demonstrated against the National Anthem on the Olympic podium. After winning a gold medal at the summer 2019 Pan American Games, she put a fist in the air at the close of the song.
Berry drew harsh criticism after that protest, and was called anti-American and dragged on social media for allegedly disrespecting the troops. At the time, her father Michael, an Iraq war veteran, defended her actions and said, ‘For her to do that on the podium is more American than anything, if you ask me, because that’s what our country is founded on: freedom of expression, freedom of speech.’
Most recently, she raised a fist again at the trials on Thursday. When the song played after she earned third to make her second U.S. Olympic team, she said that she thought it was a ‘set-up’ done on ‘purpose’ to rile her up. ‘
‘I was pissed, to be honest,’ Berry said. But USA Track and Field said the anthem was played once every day at the trials according to a published schedule. Saturday’s schedule listed the time for the anthem as 5.20pm, though it began at around 5.25pm – just as Berry took the podium. She subsequently claimed that the delay was a deliberate attempt to wind her up.
‘We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards,’ s*okeswoman Susan Hazzard said in a statement. ‘The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.’
‘We’re th*ill*d with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games,’ added Hazzard. Berry was suspended for 12 months by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee after her raised fist at the 2019 Pan American Games. However, the USOPC in March reversed its stance and said that athletes competing in the U.S. Olympic trials can protest, including kneeling or raising a clenched fist on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem.
It is unclear if Berry’s actions Sunday changed her competition status or place on the team, but many conservative media outlets and lawmakers are now calling for her to be bann-ed from representing the country in the Olympics. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton was among those who called for Berry to lose her place over her behavior.
He told Fox News: I don’t think it’s too much, when athletes are competing to wear the Stars and Stripes — to compete under the Stars and Stripes in the Olympics — for them to simply honor that flag and our anthem on the medal stand.
‘If Ms. Berry is so em*arrass-ed by America, then there’s no reason she needs to compete for our country. She should be removed from the Olympic team.’
‘The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It’s the entire point. It’s one thing when these NBA players do it, OK we’ll just stop watching. But now the Olympics Team?’ Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said in an interview with Fox News.
Vic DeGrammont, a Republican congressional candidate in Florida, wrote on Twitter: ‘If you can’t respect the flag or anthem then you shouldn’t be allowed to complete.’
Texas Senator Ted Cruz also took to Twitter to react to the story, writing: ‘Why does the Left hate America?
‘Sure, we have our faults, but no nation in the history of the world has liberated more people from captivity, has lifted more out of poverty, has bled more for freedom, or has blessed more w/ abundance. God bless America.’
Former GOP governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker tweeted: ‘What is wro*g with people? Growing up, everyone stood for the American flag. Didn’t matter your politics, race, s**, income, religion; everyone stood for the flag. ‘It was one of those civic rituals that brought us together. It still should today,’ after seeing Berry’s pro*est.
Opinion writer Josh Jordan mocked Berry’s claim that she was tricked into standing on the podium for when the anthem was played. ‘Yes, the US Olympics committee spent their time meticulously planning to make sure that the national anthem was played at the exact moment she was on the podium… because everyone knows the Olympics is all about (checks tweet) Gwen Berry,’ he wrote sarcastically.
Journalist David Steinberg suggested a different athlete be sent in Berry’s place. ‘Send the fourth-place finisher,’ he wrote. ‘Gwen Berry has a world of options if she doesn’t want to compete under our flag. ‘Not a penny of taxpayer money should fund her campaign to make Americans ha** each other.’ On Tuesday morning, ‘The View’ co-host Meghan McCain slammed Berry for what she said caused a national security r**k.
Rather than protesting domestically, McCain said, Berry’s actions put a target on the country and give dictatorships fodder to say that America isn’t as great as it seems. She added that Berry’s disdain with the flag and anthem is insulting to those who do sacrificed for it. ‘My other problem with this is I don’t understand why we all can’t have shared experiences in this space, or have our own stories, because for some reason my relationship with the flag isn’t allowed anymore,’ she said.
And Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night tore into Berry and mocked President Joe Biden for accepting her right to protest. ‘You’re not proud of the country, if you don’t want to represent the country, why are you trying to play in the Olympics for the country?’ Hannity asked.
‘Our patriotism, our national pride, the anthem – I would think that would be unifying but so often today, it’s become the opposite.’ Earlier on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Berry’s right to ‘peacefully protest’, and suggested President Biden felt the same way.
Nevertheless, Berry has promised to use her position to keep raising awareness about social injustices in her home country. ‘My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,’ Berry said. ‘I’m here to represent those … who ***d due to systemic r***. That’s the important part. That’s why I’m going. That’s why I’m here today.’