Hammer Thrower Gwen Berry Turns Away from Flag During Anthem at U.S. Olympic Trials

·2 min read

Hammer thrower Gwen Berry is heading to the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA after qualifying with a third-place finish Saturday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. As the 31-year-old from St. Louis stood on the podium, however, she made an even stronger statement, turning away from the American flag during the playing of the national anthem.

Toward the end of the "Star-Spangled Banner," Berry revealed a shirt with the words "Activist Athlete" written on it and placed it over her head.

Berry, who is an advocate of athletes using their platforms to speak on things that matter to them, told Tom Schad of USA TODAY she felt "setup" and "pissed" by the playing of the anthem, which is not typical during podium ceremonies at the event.

"It was funny because they said they were going to play [the anthem] before we actually walked out, and then it just so happened that they played it when we were out there," Berry said. "So, you know, it's OK. 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."

USA Track & Field managing director of communications Susan Hazzard told Schad the anthem was previously scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. local time and was not deliberately set to run during the hammer throwing ceremony.

"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," Hazzard said in an email to Schad. "We're thrilled with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games."

Berry was one of two American athletes reprimanded by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for protesting on the podium during the 2019 Pan American Games by raising a fist on the platform after winning gold.

The 2016 Olympian said she plans to continue to speak out in Tokyo despite threats from the International Olympic Committee that it will punish athletes who demonstrate during the Games and ceremonies.

"Sports is entertainment. But my purpose and my voice and my mission is bigger than the sport," Berry said. "So me being able to represent my communities and my people, and those who have died at the hands of police brutality, those who have died [due] to this systemic racism—I feel like that's the important part. That's why I'm going, and that's why I was here today."

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