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Sen. Cotton says Olympian who slammed US flag, anthem should be removed from US Olympic team

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Jan. 8, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)
June 30, 2021

On Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said Olympian hammer thrower Gwen Berry should be removed from the U.S. Olympic team after she turned her back on the flag during the National Anthem at an Olympic qualifying event on Saturday and said “the anthem doesn’t speak for me.”

In an appearance with Fox News host Jesse Watters, Cotton said, “I don’t think it’s too much, when athletes are competing, to wear the stars and stripes — to compete under the stars and stripes in the Olympics — for them to simply honor that flag and our anthem on the medal stand.”

Cotton’s comments came after Berry was pictured with her back turned away from the American flag while standing on the podium at the Olympic qualifying event over the weekend. During the anthem, Berry was pictured putting a black shirt over her head that said “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.”

Berry also said, “My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports. 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.”

During his Monday appearance on Fox News, Cotton said, “If Miss Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there is no reason she needs to compete for our country. She should be removed from the Olympic team.”

Berry has since told the Washington Post she felt like the playing of the national anthem “was set up.”

“I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest,” she said. “I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be all right. I see what’s up.”

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.”