Who is Gwen Berry? Hammer thrower slammed for turning away from flag while anthem plays

'I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,' said Gwen Berry, who had earlier been reprimanded for showing her fist at Pan-Am Games


                            Who is Gwen Berry? Hammer thrower slammed for turning away from flag while anthem plays
Gwendolyn Berry (L), third place, turns away from US flag during the National Anthem as DeAnna Price (C), first place, and Brooke Andersen, second place, also stand on the podium (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry has reportedly turned away from the American flag while the national anthem was played during a medal ceremony at the US Olympic trials on Saturday, June 26. The 31-year-old athlete accused the organizers of the trials in Eugene, Oregon, of being “disrespectful” to play the national anthem while she was honored with a bronze medal.

As per reports, when the national anthem was played, Berry put her left hand on her hip and turned her face towards the stands while showing her back to the flag. In her defense, she said, “I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose. I was pissed, to be honest.” The athlete continued: “They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there. I was thinking about what I should do. Eventually, I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful.”

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“It really wasn't a message. I didn't really want to be up there. Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade. They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there. 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,” Berry added.



 

While the music played, Berry placed her left hand on her hip and fidgeted. She took a quarter turn, so she was facing the stands, not the flag. Toward the end, she picked up her black t-shirt with the words 'Activist Athlete' emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head.

However, USA Track and Field dismissed the allegations as spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said in a statement, “we didn't wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. We're thrilled with the women's hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games.”

Gwendolyn Berry (L), third place, turns away from US flag during the US National Anthem as DeAnna Price (C), first place, and Brooke Andersen, second place, also stand on the podium after the Women's Hammer Throw final on day nine of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 26, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

These controversial events were seen after the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) suspended Berry for 12 months for raising her fist at the 2019 Pan American Games. She reportedly did the same again on Thursday, Friday 24, just before the qualifying round as part of her pursuit for social change. “My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports. 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.

However, in June 2020, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to her in a statement. She said, “I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night. I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Berry received more flak than praise. One user tweeted, “Guess who won't be getting a free trip to Japan!! Yoy don't disrespect the country you represent!” The second one said, “‘I feel like it was a setup’ Yes, the whole track meet was waiting for you, a hammer thrower, to be third place on the podium, just in time to play the anthem, to set you up. Talk about a narcissist. Jeez.” “Not watching the Olympics, we as tax payers paid for this embarrassing stunt.  Just don't go,” the third added.



 



 



 

However, there were some who sided with her. A tweet read, “Literally no one has more power and influence in the US than our cherished Olympian Hammer Throwers!” Another one added: “The beauty of The Flag gives her the right to speak how she feels, give thanks!”



 



 

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