US Olympian turns away from flag: ‘I feel like it was a setup’
Hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the American flag and placed a T-shirt over her head when the national anthem started to play during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Saturday.
“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said, according to ESPN. “I was pissed, to be honest.”
According to ESPN, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been played once each evening during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, but the timing coincided with Berry being on the podium to receive a bronze medal after placing third in the hammer throw.
When the music came on, Berry turned toward the stands, facing away from the flag, and put a shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” over her head. She has said she plans to use her position in Tokyo to keep awareness focused on social injustice in the U.S.
Berry said that she was told that the anthem would play beforehand.
“It was funny because they said they were going to play it before we walked out,” Berry said, according to The Washington Post. “It just happened they played it when we were out there. So, you know, it’s okay. I really don’t want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem don’t speak for me. It never has.”
According to ESPN, a USA Track and Field spokeswoman said that the timing of the national anthem had already been scheduled for 5:20 p.m. local time in Eugene, Ore.
“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,” spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said.
In 2019, Berry raised a fist while she was at the podium during the Pan-American Games in Peru, the Post reported. She was placed on probation by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, but the committee later apologized to Berry.
In March, the committee announced that it would allow some types of demonstrations, including kneeling during the anthem and raising fists at the podium to be allowed, according to the Post.