Gwen Berry: White House defends athlete, says it's her right to 'peacefully protest'
Jen Psaki has defended hammer thrower Gwen Berry after she turned her back on the US flag on the podium as the national anthem played at the Olympic Trials.
At Monday's press briefing, the White House press secretary said: "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."
While clarifying that she hasn't spoken to Joe Biden specifically about this, Psaki added that the president is "incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it respresents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world."
Biden believes that part of being a patriotic American means recognising the sins committed in America’s past and respecting the right of Americans to protest those wrongs, Psaki said.
"He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we are, as a country, haven't lived up to our highest ideals, and that means respecting the rights of people, granted to them in the Constitution, to peacefully protest."
In interviews later, Berry said she was "set up" by officials, claiming she was told the anthem would play before she took to the podium, not while she was there.
USA Track and Field insisted this wasn't the case and that the anthem played every day at the same time. “The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 pm. 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,” a spokesperson for the trial organizers told Associated Press.
"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 said. “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,” she added.
Meanwhile, critics have slammed Berry's move on Saturday after winning a bronze medal at the US Olympic Track & Field Team Trials as unpatriotic and unbecoming of a Team USA member. Berry also put her left hand on her hip and then held up a shirt that bore the phrase 'activist athlete'.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz took to Twitter on Monday to react to the story. "Why does the Left hate America?" he tweeted.
Why does the Left hate America?— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 28, 2021
Sure, we have our faults, but no nation in the history of the world has liberated more people from captivity, has lifted more out of poverty, has bled more for freedom, or has blessed more w/ abundance.
God bless America. https://t.co/7hH1FMzEn0
Rep. Dan Crenshaw slammed Berry and called for her to be barred from the Olympics. "We don't need any more activist athletes," Crenshaw (R-Texas) said during an appearance on 'Fox and Friends' on Monday. "She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It's the entire point."
"It's one thing when the NBA does it. OK, we'll just stop watching," Crenshaw said. "But now the Olympic team? And it's multiple cases of this. They should be removed. That should be the bare minimum requirement, is that you believe in the country you're representing."
Dan Crenshaw calls for Gwen Berry to be removed from the Olympic team because she turned away from the flag pic.twitter.com/c2xWKLXPPJ— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 28, 2021
Vic DeGrammont, a Republican congressional candidate in Florida, wrote on Twitter: "If you can't respect the flag or anthem then you shouldn't be allowed to complete."
Opinion writer Josh Jordan mocked Berry’s allegation that “it was set-up.” He tweeted, “Yes, the US Olympics committee spent their time meticulously planning to make sure that the national anthem was played at the exact moment she was on the podium… because everyone knows the Olympics is all about (checks tweet) Gwen Berry.”
If you can't respect the flag or anthem then you shouldn't be allowed to complete.— Vic DeGrammont (@votedegrammont) June 27, 2021
Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry turns her back on US flag during national anthem and says it was 'disrespectful' and 'a setup' to play the song while she took bronze.https://t.co/OsEYDveooX