A U.S. olympian hammer thrower turned her back on the American flag during the national anthem while standing on the podium as she received the bronze medal at the Olympic trials on Saturday. She later said, “the anthem doesn’t speak for me.”
After turning to the face the stands instead of the flag, Gwen Berry, who qualified for the Olympic team over the weekend, held up a black shirt that stated, “Activist Athlete.”
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” Berry asserted after the event, according to the New York Post. “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.”
“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said. “I was pissed, to be honest.”
“They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,” Berry continued. “I was thinking about what I should do. Eventually I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head.”
Berry accused the Olympic trial organizers of being inappropriate and disrespectful toward her.
“It was real disrespectful,” she said. “I didn’t really want to be up there,” she said. “Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade.”
Gold-medalist DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen, who earned the silver medal, stood with their hands over their hearts facing the American flag while the Star Spangled Banner played.
“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.”
Berry also posted a photo of the incident from a different angle along with the caption, “Stop playing with me.”
USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said Berry’s assertion that the anthem was deliberately played while she received her medal was not true.
“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today,” said spokeswoman Susan Hazzard. “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 was blasted on social media for the stunt.
“What is wrong with people?” former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted. “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.”
“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,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “God bless America.”