Olympian Hammer Thrower Turns From Flag During Anthem

Gwen Berry says she's an activist athlete standing up for the Black community
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 27, 2021 7:45 AM CDT
Olympian Hammer Thrower Turns From Flag During Anthem
Gwendolyn Berry competes during the finals of the women's hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Eugene, Ore.   (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

For the past week, they've played the national anthem one time per evening at the US Olympic track and field trials. On Saturday, the song started while outspoken activist Gwen Berry was standing on the podium after receiving her bronze medal in the hammer throw. While the music played, Berry placed her left hand on her hip and fidgeted. She took a quarter turn, so she was facing the stands, not the flag, per the AP. Toward the end, she plucked up her black T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete" emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head. “I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said. Berry's reaction to the “Star-Spangled Banner” was as notable as anything on the track on a blazing-hot Saturday, the second-to-last day at US Olympic trials.

Berry earned her spot, and her platform, at the Tokyo Olympics, grabbing the third spot by a scant 2 inches over Janee Kassanavoid. Berry has promised to use her position to keep raising awareness about social injustices in her home country. Her gestures drew virtually no reaction from the still-filling stands. And they were something far less than two summers ago, when Berry raised her fist on the podium after winning the Pan-Am Games. That demonstration led to a sanction, but ultimately pushed the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to commit to not punishing athletes who raise fists or kneel at the trials or in Tokyo.
(Read more Gwen Berry stories.)

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