Gwen Berry turns back to US flag during national anthem at Olympic trials, says she was 'set-up'
Activist Gwen Berry was standing on the podium after receiving her bronze medal in the hammer throw when she turned to face the stands, not the flag
Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry says she was "set-up" after the National Anthem began playing during her medal ceremony in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Saturday at which time she turned her back to the flag before eventually covering her face with a shirt.
Berry, 31, earned her spot on the Olympic team for a second time with a bronze medal performance over the weekend but much of the attention was on her protest of the National Anthem.
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"I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose," Berry said of the timing of the anthem. "I was pissed, to be honest."
Gold and silver medalists DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen faced the flag with their right hands over the heart while Berry faced away and toward the stands. She eventually picked up a black T-shirt with the words "Activist Athlete" printed on the front and draped it over her head.
"They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there," Berry said, according to The New York Post. "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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Berry claimed she was told that the anthem would be played before she took the podium.
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."
"My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports," she continued. "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."
But a spokesperson for USA Track and Field disputed Berry’s claim that it was a set up.
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"The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today. 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."
On Saturday, the music started at 5:25.
Berry was previously sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic committee after raising her fist during the national anthem at the 2019 Pan-Am Games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.