U.S. Olympic athlete Gwen Berry, the hammer thrower who turned her back on the American flag during the National Anthem while standing on the podium at an Olympic qualifying event last weekend, is sponsored by the anti-law enforcement group Color of Change, which supports defunding the police.
The group, which has sponsored the controversial athlete since last September and will continue to fund her through the end of 2021, wrote on Twitter that they are “proud” of Berry for her “leadership” amid continued backlash for the Team USA member.
“We’re proud to sponsor [Berry], to have negotiated a sponsorship with @PUMA and to continue to push corporations to support Black athletes who speak out for our communities. Grateful for Gwen’s leadership today and every day,” the activist group wrote on Twitter.
“Thank you Color of Change for always standing with me,” Berry replied.
The advocacy group openly supports defunding the police, with the organization’s president saying in a statement last month that law enforcement is a “violent institution that must end.”
“Policing is a violent institution that must end. We imagine a country where there is enough money to educate our children, care for our sick and feed those who are financially unstable,” Color of Change President Rashad Robinson said in June. “Defunding the police allows for this vision.”
The White House also defended Berry’s protest from the podium during the Olympic trials in Oregon.
“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 said.
“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.
After turning her back on the American flag during the Star-Spangled Banner, Berry 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.”