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White House defends Olympic athlete protesting anthem, trashing US: ‘We haven’t lived up to our highest ideals’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki. (Yuri Gripas/ABACAPRESS.COM/TNS)
June 29, 2021

The White House defended Olympic athletes protesting the United States from the podium Monday after Olympian Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag during the National Anthem at the Olympic trials in Oregon over the weekend.

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki if President Joe Biden thought Berry’s behavior was “appropriate … for someone who hopes to represent Team USA?”

“I know [President Biden] is incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world,” Psaki responded.

“He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments when we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the constitution, to peacefully protest,” she continued.

Berry’s behavior after earning the bronze medal prompted Congressman and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to call for her removal from Team USA.

“We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That’s the entire point,” Crenshaw said during an appearance on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning. “It’s one thing when these NBA players do it, okay fine, then we’ll just stop watching. Now the Olympic team, multiple cases of this, they should be removed. That should be the bare minimum requirement: that you believe in the country you’re representing.”

After turning her back on the American flag during the Star-Spangled Banner, the bronze medalist, 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.”

USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard contradicted Berry’s claim, explaining that the anthem was being played on a schedule.

“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.”