During the US Olympic Track and Field trials in June, hammer thrower Gwen Berry earned a spot on her second Olympic team, placing third in her event. The biggest news came in what she did afterwards when she was on the podium, didn’t acknowledge the Anthem, turned around and draped a T-shirt that said “activist athlete” over her head.
In the months leading up to the Olympic trials, Berry and all the other athletes knew they could demonstrate peacefully without fear of punishment from the USOPC. “I feel like it gives the athletes a strong sense of support, saying, ‘We do care about your lives, we do care about you, in and out of the sport,’” Berry said.
Berry is now speaking out on what exactly happened on that day and the backlash she has received as a result.
“We were told before going out to the podium that we would be introduced to the crowd either before the playing of the National Anthem or after the playing of the National Anthem because that’s what they’ve done the whole trials,” Berry said.
“As soon as we got on the podium, all you hear is, ‘Please rise for the playing of the National Anthem.’ So I was stuck, I was literally stuck,” Berry said.
When asked if she heard the National Anthem play for any other event, Berry responded with one word: “No.”
Berry believed the timing of this year’s anthem was a setup.
“They’ve risked so much money for these Olympic Games, and it’s not enough talk because no one can go, ‘The fans can’t go, so people aren’t really talking about the Olympic Games.’ So of course, what do you do to get the media going? You create controversy,” she said.
She added she and her family have been threatened, and some people have gone as far as to show up at her house and son’s school.
“My people built this country,” she said. “I am an American, so I can stand out and speak out for what I believe in because it is my constitutional right.”
Berry also responded to Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, who said this: “Honestly, it’s disgusting,” she said during an appearance on Newsmax. “Get out there. You are an athlete. Participate (and) do the best you possibly can show your talents. Stay out of politics. Don’t use this great forum for your own political gain.”
“I say Caitlyn Jenner does not know how it feels to be a Black person in America who’s representing a country that has literally done nothing for Black people in America. She needs to do her research and understand the history in America before she says anything like that,” Berry said.
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