White House backs Gwen Berry's right to protest amid GOP backlash

White House backs Gwen Berry's right to protest amid GOP backlash
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The White House on Monday backed U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry’s right to protest as the athlete draws criticism from Republican lawmakers for turning away from the country’s flag while the national anthem played at the U.S. track and field trials recently.

During a press conference, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiPsaki: 'Range' of proposals could help Biden meet climate goal Biden meets with Jayapal to kick off week of pivotal meetings The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Remembrances flow in after Powell's death MORE was asked by a reporter whether Biden thought it was “appropriate behavior” for an athlete representing the nation to turn away from the flag as the anthem plays. 

Psaki said in a response that, while she hasn’t spoke to President BidenJoe BidenJan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE specifically about Berry’s actions, she knows he is “incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents.” 

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“He would also say that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven't lived up to our highest ideals, and means respecting the right of people granted in the Constitution to peacefully protest,” she continued. 

Berry made headlines over the weekend after she turned away from the country’s flag during the trials on Saturday as the anthem played. At the time, she also held up a T-shirt that read, “Activist Athlete.”

Berry has said she felt the playing of the anthem at that time “was a setup.” She said she was previously told the anthem would be played ahead of the athletes walking out. However, a spokesperson for USA Track and Field the said the timing of the anthem had already been set for 5:20 p.m. local time in Eugene, Ore.

Berry has drawn widespread praise for the demonstration, as well as pushback from conservative lawmakers who have called for the athlete to be booted from the U.S. Olympic team.

“We don't need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team,” Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawEarly redistricting plans show GOP retrenching for long haul GOP lawmaker fined K after skipping metal detectors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Gears begin to shift in Congress on stalled Biden agenda MORE (R-Texas) said in reference to Berry during a recent appearance on “Fox & Friends.” 

“The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That's the entire point. OK so, you know, it's one thing when these NBA players do it, OK fine, we'll just stop watching. But now the Olympic team? And it's multiple cases of this,” Crenshaw added. 

The comment drew a swift jab from Berry, who retweeted footage of his remarks on Twitter with the caption, “At this point, y’all are obsessed with me.” She also retweeted a post saying “Dan can kiss my ass.” 

Berry has also prompted criticism Republican Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ark.), who similarly called for her removal from the team, and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas), who retweeted an article about Berry’s actions on Saturday along with the caption, “Why does the Left hate America?”