Gwen Berry hammer thrower ignites debate during Olympic trials after turning her back during the playing of the national anthem. Politics in sports?
A U.S. track and field athlete and anti-racism activist has stoked national debate after turning her back from the American flag as the national anthem was played during a medal ceremony at the Olympic trials in Oregon on Saturday.
Gwen Berry, who had finished third in the hammer throw, described the situation at the U.S. Track & Field trials as a ‘set up.’
‘I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,’ Berry said. ‘I was p—–, to be honest.’
During the playing of the anthem, which had been occurring once a day during the trials, Berry placed her hand on her hip, turned away and draped her T-shirt which read ‘Activist Athlete’ over her head.
‘My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,’ Berry said. ‘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.’
Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry turns her back on the American flag on Saturday during national anthem
If you can’t respect our flag, and our national anthem
Take your nasty ass back to Africa
You’re no America, and won’t be missed~ pic.twitter.com/JaHj2duiTH
— 🇭ip~ (@TruthInBytes) June 27, 2021
Role of sport?
With her third-place finish, Berry is set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics next month.
Responding to the claim that Berry had ‘been set up,’ USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said ‘the national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today. 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.
Berry nevertheless took exception and countered with how she perceived the turn of events actually played out.
‘They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there, they had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up 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.’
Reiterated the track athlete: ‘My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports. 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.’
The weekend episode follows US Olympic athletes being previously prohibited from making political statements during anthems in January, 2020, after Berry was put on probation for raising her fist during the Pan-American Games in Peru in August 2019. US Olympic and Paralympic Committee in April reversed course, allowing kneeling and other forms of protests during the national anthem.
We’re going to see more of this. It’s going to make patriotic Americans cheer for foreign competitors and against the anti-American Americans.
Hammer thrower Gwen Berry turns away from flag while anthem plays at trials – ‘I feel like it was a set-up’ https://t.co/TnIFwzy5Fh
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 27, 2021
Should activism/politics be allowed in sports?
The specter of athletes declining to recognize the national anthem has once again re-ignited debate amongst sporting fans- with some supporting an athlete’s decision to use the national stage to champion activist themes that normally would not get the type of attention that professional/Olympic sports garners while others saying such ‘gestures’ disrespects the spirit of competition, the nation along with being out of place.
‘Growing up, everyone stood for the American flag. Didn’t matter your politics, race, sex, income, religion; everyone stood for the flag. It was one of those civic rituals that brought us together,’ Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted. ‘It still should today.’
‘I agree with her taking a stance against systemic racism. However, not convinced this was the right time and place…’ posted one commentator on social media.
While others were more adamant, ‘They should strip her of her medal. If you hate this country don’t compete in the trials for the Olympics.’
While some supported Berry’s activism, ‘The flag and national anthem has never represented every citizen of this country equally. Kudos to those with a platform whose voice and actions speak out against inequality!’
Berry’s protest follows a long line of professional athletes –Olympic and otherwise — using the national anthem as a tool to protest racism.
Most famously, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two black track and field athletes, raised their fists, each clad in a black glove, as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ played while they stood on the podium during the Mexico City Olympic in 1968.
More recently, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 began taking a knee when the national anthem played before games, to protest police brutality.