Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the flag during the national anthem after receiving her bronze medal at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials this past weekend. When the song started playing, Berry placed her left hand on her hip and fidgeted, according to ESPN. She turned to the crowd instead of the flag and pulled up her black T-shirt with the words "Activist Athlete" on the front and put it over her head.
Afterward, Berry was asked why she decided to turn away during the anthem. "I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,'' Berry said about the timing of the song. "I was pissed, to be honest.'' Berry went on to talk about using her platform to speak out on the issues in the country. "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.''
On Saturday, U.S. track & field athlete Gwen Berry turned away from the American flag during the national anthem while receiving the bronze medal for hammer throwing at the Olympic trials. At one point Berry also placed a T-shirt with the phrase 'Activist Athlete' over her head. pic.twitter.com/gQS2bE0Bgv— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 28, 2021
The "Star-Spangled Banner" would play once per evening at the Olympic trials the past week. ESPN mentioned that anthems aren't played to accompany medal ceremonies at the trails. However, the hammer throwers received their awards just before the start of the evening session, which begins with the playing of the national anthem.
"The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today," USA Track and Field spokeswoman 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.'' Berry said she was told something different.
"They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,'' said Berry. "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.'' This is nothing new for Berry as she raised her fist on the podium after winning the Pan-Am Games nearly two years ago. Berry, 31, will be heading to her second Olympic Games in Tokyo next month. In 2016, Berry finished second in the Olympic trials but didn't qualify for the finals at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.