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Olympian Gwen Berry Speaks Up After Criticism for Not Facing the Flag During the National Anthem

Athlete Gwen Berry is facing criticism after a incident at the US Olympic track and field trials that took place over the weekend. The hammer thrower and mom of a son, Derrick, placed third in the hammer event which took place in Eugene, Oregon, and says that the playing of the national anthem while she was on the podium was a set up.

According to CNN, Berry turned away from the flag to face the stands while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played during the medal ceremony on Saturday. She then draped a T-shirt that said “activist athlete” over her head. With her third place in the hammer event, Berry earned a spot on the US team for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin next month.

“I feel like it was set up. I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest,” Berry told CNN of the anthem being played while she was on the podium. “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 alright. I see what’s up.”
Berry also took to her Instagram account to express her outrage of her treatment at the trials, with the caption:  “I said what I said… I meant what I said… STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD!”

According to Reuters, USA Track and Field (USATF) said the anthem was played each day at the trials according to a pre-arranged schedule. “We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards,” said USATF spokeswoman Susan Hazzard. “We’re thrilled with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games.”
Berry seems to feel she was misinformed about the ceremony format: “They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” said Berry, according to ESPN. “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.”

Berry who is know for being an outspoken athlete wears the title of “activist athlete” with pride. Known for her strong voice in the fight for racial equality, she’s known to raise her fist while on the podium during track and field events, but she’s also no stranger to the criticism and judgement that comes with it. In 2020, Berry wrote an op-ed for the New York Times for an article titled, “I Used the Podium to Protest. The Olympic Committee Punished Me,” where she said that the Olympics are rife with hypocrisy: “Olympians are celebrated for their courage, drive and tenacity. But if they are spurred by those same traits to demand racial justice? That’s a punishable offense.”

Whether they’re choosing to compete in the Olympic trials and hoping to attend the Olympics, while standing up for what they think is right and also taking care of their families, or they’re choosing not to participate in the Olympics, we’re standing behind strong, uncompromising, talented women, and moms, like Berry.

Before you go, check out these celebrity parents who talk to their kids about racism.

celebs parents racism

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