U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry angered millions of Americans when she turned her back during the playing of the American national anthem as she stood on the medal stand.
According to The Hill, when pressed by reporters on whether or not President Joe Biden supported the idea of Berry protesting the very country which provided her the opportunity to ascend to the elite ranks of Olympic-level sport, White House press secretary Jen Psaki essentially said that the president supports such protests.
The controversial moment occurred when Berry, a Black track and field athlete, turned her back when the national anthem blared over the loudspeakers.
Gwen Berry, who has used her platform to speak out against systemic racism, turned away from the flag while the national anthem played during the medal ceremony for the U.S. track and field Olympic trials on Saturday. https://t.co/3TPig28d01 pic.twitter.com/j7k7ITuLSw
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 28, 2021
After intense backlash from the American public and from several high-profile politicians and media pundits, Berry seemingly doubled down on her decision to protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“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,” Berry said. “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.”
According to the New York Post, the Olympic athlete went on to claim that the playing of the song “was a setup” and done “on purpose,” given a previous controversial move in which she raised her fist in the air at the Pan-American Games in Peru in August 2019.
White House says it’s OK, though
Psaki was asked this week if Biden’s White House felt that Berry’s actions were “appropriate behavior” for someone representing the United States on such a public, world stage. Psaki didn’t even have to circle back on that particular question, seemingly having an answer ready to go.
The press secretary started by saying she hadn’t spoken with Biden directly about the issue, but added that the president is “incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents.”
“He would also say that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and means respecting the right of people granted in the Constitution to peacefully protest,” Psaki added.
A number of politicians, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), slammed the Olympic hammer-thrower for her actions, even demanding that she be removed from the U.S. Olympic team. Berry responded to Crenshaw on Twitter, retweeting a post from a fan that said, “Dan can kiss my a**.”
It’s not surprising that Biden and the White House would excuse Berry’s actions, because it’s the “woke” response expected by many in the Democratic party. But that certainly doesn’t make Berry any less of a national embarrassment for doing so.