At the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Saturday, hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the American flag as the National Anthem played.
Berry placed third in the hammer throw on Saturday, qualifying her for the Tokyo Olympics. As the National Anthem began to play with the winners standing on the podium, Berry turned away from the flag so that she was facing the stands. Toward the end of the anthem, she pulled up a black t-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” on the front to cover her head.
According to The Associated Press, the national anthem has been played every night for the past week at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, but the anthem is not played during medal ceremonies like it is during the Olympics.
“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today,” USA Track and Field spokesman Susan Hazzard said. “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.”
The anthem began at 5:25 on Saturday, according to the AP.
Berry felt the timing of the playing was done on purpose.
“I feel like it was setup,” Berry said with a burst of laughter. “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest. 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 all right. I see what’s up.”
“It was funny because they said they were going to play it before we walked out,” Berry said according to The Washington Post. “It just happened they played it when we were out there. So, you know, it’s okay. I really don’t want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem don’t speak for me. It never has.”
Don’t set me up and think I won’t jump ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾 https://t.co/IHXAbm3GBH
— Gwen Berry (@MzBerryThrows) June 27, 2021
In 2019, Berry raised her fist while on the podium at the Pan-Am Games. The move led to a formal reprimand from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, but Berry was not suspended. She did, however, receive a 12-month probation.
Berry said that turning away during the anthem was not a message.
“It really wasn’t a message,” Berry said. “I didn’t want to be up there. I felt like it was a setup. I was hot. I was ready to get my pictures and get to some shade.”
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry said. “I’m here to represent those … who died due to systemic racism. That’s the important part. That’s why I’m going. That’s why I’m here today.”
DeAnna Price won gold in the event with a throw of 262 feet, 6 inches, and said she was “proud” of Berry.
“I think people should say whatever they want to say. I’m proud of her,” Price said.
Berry said that she has not decided how she will demonstrate at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“When I get there,” Berry said, “I’ll figure out something to do.”