U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry failed to medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday after promising to protest and “represent the oppressed” if she were to make it to the podium.
Berry finished in eleventh place out of twelve competitors, registering a distance of 71.35 meters in the hammer throw, according to the New York Post.
The athlete made headlines during the Olympic trials in June. While on stage receiving her medal, Berry turned her back to the flag and held up a t-shirt that read “Activist Athlete” when the anthem started playing.
Days before her showing at the trials, Berry told The Washington Post that representing America has been an issue for her since the country allegedly works to disenfranchise black Americans.
“For me, it’s always been something that’s been underlyingly uncomfortable, knowing that I’m rocking this big ‘USA’ across my chest when everything about America is to demean and to keep Black people at the bottom of the totem pole,” she said. “It has always, always, always been something I have been very uncomfortable with. I’m glad I’m able to say that without being punished or without being misunderstood.”
“I try to compartmentalize it. I try to say, ‘The USA can mean a lot of things.’ I try to give it my own meaning, just to say that I do deserve to represent a country that my people have built uncompensated, have worked for and have survived throughout,” Berry continued. “I just have to give myself a different meaning of it, regardless of how uncomfortable I am with what it is sometimes.”
As highlighted by The Daily Wire, Berry said in a post-qualifier interview Saturday that she intends to make a political statement if she were to medal:
“I feel like I’ve earned the right to wear this uniform,” Berry said first, addressing critics who claimed she should be replaced by a more patriotic athlete, or that she could forgo her position on Team USA if competing under the American flag was a problem. As The Daily Wire previously reported, some lawmakers had floated the idea of booting Berry from the team if she continued to denigrate the United States.
“I’ll represent the oppressed people,” Berry added. “That’s been my message for the last three years.”
Notably, Berry is sponsored by athletic brand Puma, a relationship she secured through a pro-“Defund the Police” group called Color of Change, which has sponsored Berry since last September.
“We’re proud to sponsor [Berry], to have negotiated a sponsorship with [Puma] and to continue to push corporations to support Black athletes who speak out for our communities. Grateful for Gwen’s leadership today and every day,” Color of Change posted to Twitter. “Thank you Color of Change for always standing with me,” Berry responded.