White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended hammer thrower Gwen Berry's right to 'peacefully protest,' after the Tokyo-bound athlete turned her back on the US flag during Olympic trials.

Psaki told Fox News' Peter Doocy at Monday's press briefing that while she and President Joe Biden hadn't spoken specifically about the incident, Biden 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.' 

'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,' Psaki added.  

Berry spent Monday firing back at critics, retweeting posts telling Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw to kiss 'a**' and another in which the former GOP governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is portrayed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Berry, 31, was on the podium at the trials in Oregon on Saturday when the anthem started playing. Her white competitors, DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen, turned to face the flag and placed their hands on their hearts but Berry, a vocal BLM activist, turned to face the stands, put her hands on her hips and then held up a t-shirt bearing the words 'athlete activist'. 

In interviews later, she said she felt like officials only played the anthem to 'set her up' and that she had been told it would be played before she walked on to the podium, not while she was there. She also said she didn't want to be standing for pictures for long because it was hot. 

The trial organizers insisted this wasn't the case and that the anthem played every day at the same time.   

On Monday, Berry was later slammed by conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz who said her protest was disrespectful and who claimed she hated her country. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL United States Navy,  said she ought to be removed from the Olympics. 

'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 these NBA players do it, OK we'll just stop watching. But now the Olympics Team?' he said in an interview with Fox.  

'I said what I said... I meant what I said.. STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD!' she wrote on Instagram along with the hashtag #activistAthlete.' On Twitter, she said: 'I never said I hated this country! People try to put words in my mouth but they can’t. That’s why I speak out. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.' 

'These comments really show that: 1.) people in American rally patriotism over basic morality. 2.) Even after the murder of George Floyd and so many others; the commercials, statements, and phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.'  

While the anthem played at the trials in Eugene, Oregon , Gwen Berry (left) placed her left hand on her hip and shuffled her feet before turning away toward the stands

While the anthem played at the trials in Eugene, Oregon , Gwen Berry (left) placed her left hand on her hip and shuffled her feet before turning away toward the stands

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended hammer thrower Gwen Berry's right to 'peacefully protest' during Monday's press briefing

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended hammer thrower Gwen Berry's right to 'peacefully protest' during Monday's press briefing 

Berry lashed out at Fox News and Dan Crenshaw, saying they were 'obsessed' with her
Berry lashed out at Fox News and Dan Crenshaw, saying they were 'obsessed' with her
Berry retweeted one user who told Dan Crenshaw, a military veteran who lost an eye in combat, to 'kiss her a**' after he called for her to be removed from the Olympic team

Berry retweeted one user who told Dan Crenshaw, a military veteran who lost an eye in combat, to 'kiss her a**' after he called for her to be removed from the Olympic team

Berry also defended her protest in a series of tweets and Instagram posts, saying 'I meant what I said!'
Berry also defended her protest in a series of tweets and Instagram posts, saying 'I meant what I said!'

Berry also defended her protest in a series of tweets and Instagram posts, saying 'I meant what I said!' 


Walker had tweeted: 'What is wrong with people? Growing up, everyone stood for the American flag. Didn't matter your politics, race, sex, income, religion; everyone stood for the flag. 

'It was one of those civic rituals that brought us together. It still should today,' after seeing Berry's protest.  

Cruz also took to Twitter to react to the story, writing: 'Why does the Left hate America? 

'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.'

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 claim that she was tricked into standing on the podium for when the anthem was played. '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,' he wrote sarcastically.

Journalist David Steinberg suggested a different athlete be sent in Berry's place. 'Send the fourth-place finisher,' he wrote. 'Gwen Berry has a world of options if she doesn't want to compete under our flag. 

'Not a penny of taxpayer money should fund her campaign to make Americans hate each other.' 

Speaking on Fox News, wrestler Tyrus Murdoch said: 'We've had some issues in this country especially as a black man when I go to Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Jessie Owens who they had issues, they fought, they wanted dignity, but they also wanted a seat at the table.

'They wanted to show how much they loved their country, how much they belong, and human rights issues and they fought for it. This isn't it. Even if we are taking a knee on the baseball game, I have no problem with a professional athlete being a citizen, taking a respectful knee during the flag if that's what you choose to do while still honoring the flag, I have no issue...

'[But] why are you even competing in the Olympics if you hate the flag and the country so much? 

'If it's such a horrible place, why are you doing it?' Murdoch asked of Berry.

Berry hit back at the criticism she was receiving on social media over the incident.

'These comments really show that: 1.) people in American (sic) rally patriotism over basic morality,' she wrote on Twitter. 

'2.) Even after the murder of George Floyd and so many others; the commercials, statements, and phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax. 

Gwendolyn Berry raises her Activist Athlete T-Shirt over her head during the metal ceremony after the finals of the women's hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

Gwendolyn Berry raises her Activist Athlete T-Shirt over her head during the metal ceremony after the finals of the women's hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

Toward the end of the anthem, Berry plucked up her black T-shirt with the words 'Activist Athlete' emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head

Toward the end of the anthem, Berry plucked up her black T-shirt with the words 'Activist Athlete' emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head

Gwendolyn Berry, left, looks away as DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen stand for the national anthem after the finals of the women's hammer throw at the Olympic trials on Saturday

Gwendolyn Berry, left, looks away as DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen stand for the national anthem after the finals of the women's hammer throw at the Olympic trials on Saturday

She later added: 'I never said I hate this country! People try to put words in my mouth but they can't. 

'That's why I speak out. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.'

'I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,' Berry said earlier, who finished third to make her second U.S. Olympic team. 'I was pissed, to be honest.'

Berry previously protested during competition against racism, most recently raising a fist at the trials on Thursday, and said that she felt insulted by the Star-Spangled Banner playing as she took the podium. 

'They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,' she said. '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.' 

'It really wasn't a message. I didn't really want to be up there.

'Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade,' added Berry.

Critics called Berry's protest unpatriotic and told her to leave the country if she didn't like it

Critics called Berry's protest unpatriotic and told her to leave the country if she didn't like it

'They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,' Berry said. 

'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.' 

USA Track and Field said the anthem was played once every day at the trials according to a published schedule. 

'I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,' said Berry (right), who finished third to make her second U.S. Olympic team. 'I was pissed, to be honest.'

'I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,' said Berry (right), who finished third to make her second U.S. Olympic team. 'I was pissed, to be honest.' 

'I didn't really want to be up there. Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade,' said Berry

'I didn't really want to be up there. Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade,' said Berry

Berry raises her fist at the trials on Thursday, after USOPC reversed its ban on athlete protests and apologized for sanctioning her for a similar protest in 2019

Berry raises her fist at the trials on Thursday, after USOPC reversed its ban on athlete protests and apologized for sanctioning her for a similar protest in 2019


Saturday's schedule listed the time for the anthem as 5.20pm, though it began at around 5.25pm. 

'We didn't wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards,' spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said in a statement. 

'The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.'

'We're thrilled with the women's hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games,' added Hazzard. 

Berry was suspended for 12 months by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) for a raised fist at the 2019 Pan American Games, but did so again before Thursday's qualifying round as part of her quest for social change.

The USOPC in March reversed its stance and said that athletes competing in the U.S. Olympic trials can protest, including kneeling or raising a clenched fist on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem.

Berry has promised to use her position to keep raising awareness about social injustices in her home 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.'

Last June, Berry demanded a letter of apology from USOPC for sanctioning her over her 2019 Pan American Games protest, and then revised her demand to ask for a public apology from USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland.

Hirshland met the demand and issued a statement after meeting with Berry privately.

'I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,' Hirshland said in the statement. 

'I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.' 

Now, Berry will be heading to her second Olympics, and on Saturday she saw what it will take to earn a spot on the podium in Tokyo.

DeAnna Price won the trials with a throw of 263 feet, 6 inches, which was nearly 7 feet longer than Berry's throw. Brooke Andersen took second place.

Price, who became only the second woman in history to crack 80 meters, said she had no problem sharing the stage with Berry.

'I think people should say whatever they want to say. I'm proud of her,' Price said.

She figures to be going for gold along with world-record holder Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland, who is expected to be in Japan. Meanwhile, Andersen's throw was a mere 2 inches shy of Berry's personal best.

Berry said she needs to get 'my body right, my mind right and my spirit right' for the Olympics. 

The women's hammer throw starts August 1 in Tokyo. 

Athletes will be allowed to protest at next year's Tokyo Games without facing any form of punishment.  

The decision is a response to a set of recommendations from a USOPC athlete group that seeks changes to the much-maligned Rule 50 of the IOC Olympic Charter, which prohibits inside-the-lines protests at the games.

It was this rule that most famously led to the ouster of U.S. medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City after the sprinters raised their fists on the medals stand to protest racial inequality in the United States.

'Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values,' said the athlete statement that accompanied the recommendations.

The athletes seek changes that would bring the policy closer to those in major U.S. and international leagues, most of which relaxed their rules regarding demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's death in May at the hands of Minneapolis police and the unrest that ensued. NBA players, for instance, pushed repeatedly for assurances they could use their platform to address social justice issues.

'You see athletes in sports leagues becoming aware of the power they have in driving social change,' said Yannick Kluch, a sports culture professor at Rowan University who helped the athletes tackle these issues.

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