U.S. Olympian Gwen Berry felt that the playing of the National Anthem at the Olympic track and field trials on Saturday was “disrespectful” to her.
Multiple GOP lawmakers and military veterans have since called for her to be removed from the Olympic team, citing that the sole purpose of an Olympic athlete is to represent their country under the flag.
“I don’t think it’s too much, when athletes are competing to wear the Stars and Stripes — to compete under the Stars and Stripes in the Olympics — for them to simply honor that flag and our anthem on the medal stand,” Sen. Tom Cotton said on Fox News on Monday. “If Ms. Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there’s no reason she needs to compete for our country. She should be removed from the Olympic team.”
Former NFL player Jack Brewer has been an outspoken critic of players protesting the anthem, and made his opinion clear in a conversation with The Daily Wire.
“I just think about growing up as a kid and literally just in school, when you hear the National Anthem, the feeling that it gives you and the respect that you have,” Brewer said when asked about Berry’s move to turn her back to the flag. “The flag is not supposed to represent perfection, but the flag is the family — the American family — the country that we share. Everyone is trying to work for the same goal. That’s what your country represents. That’s like walking into your house and slapping your mom. It makes no sense. I don’t understand it.”
“And now, we have a culture that is literally professing to these kids and teaching these kids that their country is inherently bad … not to respect the national Anthem and the flag. That’s supposed to be the one thing that brings us together. It’s heartbreaking.”
Athletes have been protesting the anthem since NFL player Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling in 2016, but Berry’s position is different. The sole purpose of an Olympic athlete is to represent his or her country, it’s not for fame or fortune as it is for professional athletes. It’s what makes Berry’s move so offensive to so many.
“If I was a coach or if I was a part of the U.S. Olympic committee, the first criteria that you should have for anybody that wants to go compete for the country is that you embrace and love your country. How do you have someone compete at the highest level and how do you have them give everything that they have in their heart … and trust that they’re going to go there with the best intention, if the very country that they’re going to represent … they turn their back on. That should be the number one criteria before anyone gets or makes this Olympic team.”
“Our freedom is not free. The American people deserve to be represented by people who love them and people who stand for unity and all the good things that this country is about.”
Berry’s move to protest the flag and anthem may be just the beginning of Olympic athletes protesting the flag on the international stage. Brewer believes it will continue, but only if we allow it.
“I think we will continue to see it if they appease it and allow it. You’ve got to stop it at its root. There’s no time to have this lukewarm perspective when it comes to these things. It’s time to take a hard stand in this nation, to hold people accountable. You don’t want to be here, you don’t want to represent America, that’s your choice. We have choice and free will in America.”
“So, anybody that wants to represent our Olympic team should not be allowed to wear that red, white, and blue if they don’t love this nation. You can stop it by actually holding people accountable and not allowing you to take hostage of our American dream on the international scale, by giving someone the ability to hijack that moment for whatever their political belief is.”
Berry has indicated that she will not back down when she gets to Tokyo, saying she’ll “figure out something to do” when she gets there. It’s a statement that perplexes Brewer.
“If you just listen to the reasoning behind what they claim to be fighting for … You claim to be fighting against racism, but you’re literally standing against the one nation that has allowed more people to have equality and opportunity than in any place in the world! People are trying to leave by the millions to get to America. People that are really facing serious oppression and racism and all those other things.”
“They’re coming here, yet we have athletes that don’t appreciate the very freedoms in which we have. It’s embarrassing.”
Lost in the backlash was the selfishness of the act, taking attention away from the two other Olympic hammer throwers who made the team. DeAnna Price earned gold in the event, setting an American record with a throw of 263 feet, 6 inches (80.31 meters).
“You took all of the focus off of the record holder. You took her moment,” Brewer said. “How dare you?”
Joe Morgan is the sports reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.