Outspoken Black activist athlete Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag as the national anthem played at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials this weekend.
Berry, a hammer thrower, also put her T-shirt over her head to protest racism after she was awarded a bronze medal Saturday at the trials in Eugene, Oregon. The shirt read “Activist Athlete.”
Unlike at the Olympics, where the anthem of an athlete’s nation is played when medals are awarded, the anthem at the trials is played only once each evening.
Berry told reporters it seemed like a “set up” that the anthem was played just as she was on the podium, given her well-known views against racism in the country.
“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said of the timing, according to The Associated Press. She said the anthem was supposed to be played before the athletes walked out, but then was played when they were on the podium. “I was pissed, to be honest.”
“I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important,” Berry said. “The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”
Berry emphasized to reporters that her “purpose and mission” is “bigger than sports. I’m here to represent those … who died due to systemic racism.”
“What I need to do is speak for my community, to represent my community and to help my community. Because that’s more important than sports,” she added.
A USA Track and Field spokesperson told ESPN that the anthem plays at a set time each day, and “we didn’t wait for the athletes to be on the podium.”
The other two hammer throw winners, first-place winner DeAnna Price and runner-up Brooke Andersen, remained on the podium facing the flag with hands over their hearts.
An overwhelming number of people responding to Berry’s tweets about the incident were positive. Predictably, Fox News and right-wing former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker complained about it.
“What is wrong with these people?” Walker asked.
Former chief of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub pointed out to Walker that what’s actually unpatriotic is lying about presidential elections and “inciting insurrections.”