Gwen Berry, a American hammer thrower who qualified for the Olympics, has received both criticism and praise in the past few days for turning her back to the flag while the National Anthem played.
On June 26, Berry earned her spot on the 2021 Olympic hammer team by coming in third place. While she and the two other women were standing on the podium, the national anthem began to play. The first and second place finishers turned towards the flag and placed their hands over their hearts. Meanwhile, Berry turned away from the flag and held a shirt over her face which said “Activist Athlete.”
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According to Reuters, the national anthem only plays once each day during the Olympic Trials at a set time each day, which she would have been aware of. However, she claimed that she was told the song would commence playing before they went onto the podium and later claimed that it was a setup.
Berry said the song has never spoken for her due to the systemic racism and racist history she says is present in America. Berry is a self-proclaimed “activist first, athlete second,” or activist athlete. Berry has been competing in track and field since high school and was a member of the 2016 Olympic team. She also holds the world record in the weight throw.