Gwen Berry Is Not Here For ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ Shenanigans, Protests National Anthem At Olympic Trials

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  • Tokyo Games
    Tokyo Games
  • Gwen Berry
    Gwen Berry
    American female hammer thrower
2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials - Day 9
2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials - Day 9

Source: Patrick Smith / Getty

Hammer-thrower Gwen Berry is in the headlines again. Coming in third place and securing her spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2021 Tokyo Games at the track and field trials last week, the athlete chose to protest the anthem as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ played during the subsequent medal ceremony.

Photos from June 26, indicate that as the patriotic song rang out, Berry broke cast with fellow athletes and posed with her hand on her hip. While DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson — who won first and second place at the event respectively — held bouquets of flowers and had a hand over their hearts as the controversial lyrics played, Berry stood confidently with an “Activist Athlete” t-shirt draped over her head.

“I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said about the anthem being played during the ceremony. “I was pissed, to be honest.”

Berry continued: “They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” the athlete detailed the situation. According to ESPN, Berry went onto say, “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.

“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” the athlete highlighted. “I’m here to represent those… who died due to systemic racism. That’s the important part. That’s why I’m going [to Tokyo]. That’s why I’m here today.”

On Instagram, Berry posted photos of herself alongside Saturday’s other winners on the podiums. Doubling down on her stance, she captioned them, “I said what I said… I meant what I said… STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD! #activistAthlete.”

In response, USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said on Saturday, “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.”

In the past, Berry has been reprimanded by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee for throwing up a Black Power fist during the medal ceremony of the 2019 Pan American Games. She lost sponsorships and was even put on 12-month probation. Despite the possibilities of further repercussions, she’s strong in her decision to stick up for her beliefs.

CNN reported that Berry stated, “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.”

Despite US Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland stating in an open letter earlier this year “respectful demonstrations on the topic of racial and social justice” like Berry’s would be allowed at the Olympic Trials, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that they would uphold the Rule 50 ban at this year’s Tokyo Games, making it against the rules for athletes to demonstrate or protest.

Like many other athletes who’ve chosen to use their high-profile statuses to promote social change, Berry’s actions are causing impactful and important ripple effects on our society, especially regarding important conversations that often go under-discussed.