Over the weekend, the national anthem was played after a hammer throw competition at the Olympic trials, and the anthem seriously incensed one of the athletes. Gwen Berry, who had just received a bronze medal for the contest, is also a progressive activist who spoke out harshly against the anthem.
As the “Star-Spangled Banner” played after the competition, Berry, put her hand on her hip and deliberately turned her back to the American flag, facing the stands instead. Once the song was completed, she pulled a black T-shirt over her head that stated “Activist Athlete.”
Berry also ranted about the timing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which had been played while she was on the podium. She claimed that “it was a set-up,” and that “they did it on purpose.”
She also added, “I was pissed, to be honest.”
Berry continued to rant to the Associated Press that the “Star-Spangled Banner” should have been played before she and the other medalists had reached the podium. However, it was delayed until she was standing directly on the podium with others.
Berry claimed that the national anthem was going to be played “before we walked out,” but “then they played it when we were out there.” She continued to say that she does not want to discuss the national anthem further because “that’s not important.”
“The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has,” Berry proclaimed.
The “Star-Spangled Banner” had been scheduled to play at a specific time, and it was not at all intentionally delayed until the winners of the hammer throw competition were standing at the podium, according to Susan Hazzard, the USA Track and Field spokesperson.
Berry, who also has a firm place in the Tokyo Olympics, has claimed that she intends to use her platform in order to raise awareness about various social justice issues that she claims are a continued problem in the United States.
She argued that her “mission” and her “purpose” are “bigger than sports,” and that she is at the Olympics in order to represent individuals who have “died due to systemic racism.”
“That’s the important party,” Berry asserts, adding that is why she is at the hammer throw competition today and why she intends to travel to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
This protest is not the first of Berry’s, given that she also fiercely raised a fit while standing on the podium after winning the Pan-Am Games a couple of years ago. The crowd did not have any reaction to Berry turning her back on the American flag.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that it will start enforcing its Rule 50 in Tokyo, which includes the ban of any politically oriented protests, including kneeling inside the lines and raising fists. Back in 1968, this rule ultimate led to John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Olympic sprinters, to be sent home from the 1968 Mexico City Games.
Berry also argued that she could have a favorable impact on increasing awareness about various social injustices, even if she ultimately does not receive a medal during the Olympics.
She claims she doesn’t have to do anything with regards to sports, though what she needs to do is “speak for [her] community,” as she considers that representation far more important than sports.