Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings sparks backfire for not wearing a mask, calling it a ‘brave’ move
Olympic volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings is facing a wave of backlash after she said she went to a store without a mask and referred to guidelines aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus as “restrictive [and] arbitrarily selective rules.”
The three-time gold medalist on Monday said she had a “little exercise in being brave” and went shopping without a face mask after reading a quote that said: “THIS HAS NOT BEEN ENFORCED, IT’S BEEN CONSENTED TO.”
“This statement woke me up & the truth of it has had me obsessing on the matter of how I can mindfully & compassionately stand up for my rights & for the freedoms our constitution has granted us all WITHOUT being reckless or putting anyone else in danger,” she wrote on Instagram. “We are all endlessly complaining about the restrictive & arbitrarily selective rules that we are being strongly ‘suggested’ to follow & yet we are all consenting.”
She added that measures implemented by health experts amid the pandemic are “more deeply unhealthy than any virus could ever be.”
The athlete told her 242,000 Instagram followers to eat well, get enough sleep and “perhaps start a breath work protocol to work and strengthen your lungs” to fight against the deadly virus.
“I want people to stop living in fear and start living in a way that strengthens themselves body, mind and spirit,” she continued in the comments.
Walsh Jennings concluded by saying that she didn’t want to make people “uncomfortable or upset,” but shared a quote from Thomas Jefferson saying: “I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery.”
“Things won’t open up and freedoms won’t come back unless we are willing to push back and stand up for them. I am willing to fight for the freedoms I have been guaranteed by my constitution,” Walsh Jennings added.
Health experts across the world have encouraged people to wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 6.3 million people in the U.S. and killed nearly 190,000.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July published an editorial affirming studies that found the U.S. could get the pandemic under control if everyone wore face masks.
“Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Walsh Jennings’s post immediately set off a wave of criticism, with many social media users calling her remarks “beyond disappointing,” “terribly ill-advised, entirely contradictory” and “poorly informed.”
“I can’t believe I used to idolize you,” one Instagram user wrote. “This is the most selfish thing I’ve read yet. So unbelievably hypocritical. Put a fucking mask on and take care of others not just your ‘freedom’. Wow.”
Jennifer Kessy, a former professional beach volleyball player, replied by writing: “You have traveled the world enough to know what freedom is and isn’t. I played you in the finals of a tournament in Dubai. Women were not even allowed in the stadium, show their face in public, and so many other atrocities we can’t even begin to imagine. That isn’t FREEDOM. Just to be wearing a mask isn’t taking your freedom. You can go anywhere you want, buy what you want, eat healthy real food, love who you want, access social media, own a home, and all you need to do is WEAR A MASK. To me this sounds like Freedom.”
Walsh Jennings appeared to backtrack her comments in a subsequent post on Tuesday, posting an image of a white flag with the word “truce.”
She offered an apology to “those I’ve upset so deeply” and thanked supporters who voiced their agreement with her.
“To those calling me dumb, selfish, privileged, bigoted, and racist and telling me that ‘you are better than this’, I fully acknowledge that addressing such an emotional, layered, nuanced and polarizing topic on social media was not the smartest thing,” she wrote.
“I’m not quite sure when we became a world where a differing opinion equates to evil and hatred,” she added, “but here we are.”
The volleyball player wrote that she was not advocating for people to stop wearing masks, but said she does not believe in their “efficacy unless it’s of a certain caliber.”
“I am advocating critical thinking and civility. I am advocating personal responsibility,” she wrote.
Former NFL player Brett Favre replied with: “Amen!!!”
Walsh Jennings is the most decorated beach volleyball player in Olympic history and had been planning to compete in the 2020 Tokyo games before they were postponed due to the pandemic.
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