Racists who are eager to be mad at Black people even (especially?) if it involves fake outrage grabbed at the absolute lowest-hanging fruit over the weekend when world-class hammer-thrower Gwen Berry refused to acknowledge the American flag during the playing of the national anthem as she accepted a bronze medal.
Berry, 32, is now speaking out about the flag and anthem protest controversy at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in an unapologetic effort to clear up any misconceptions about her actions and comments afterward.
Berry, who is also an activist, was shown during the medal ceremony on Saturday at the Olympic trials in Oregon looking uncomfortable while the “Star-Spangled Banner” played over the loudspeaker. That prompted her to grab a black T-shirt with “Activist Athlete” printed on it and place it over her head — something that staunch conservatives took as the same kind of illogical personal affront associated with critics of Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player who riled up racists by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem — all while her hand was on her hip.
Berry, who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, said afterward that she was reacting to the timing of the playing of the national anthem, which had been played only once each day — during the evening — at the Olympic trials. But on Saturday, the anthem was played much earlier and immediately after Berry won her bronze medal. She said that wasn’t a coincidence and was reacting to that, not anything else.
“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said about when the Star-Spangled Banner was played. “I was pissed, to be honest.”
She added later: “The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”
On Sunday, Berry elaborated in an Instagram post showing the viral photo and simply captioned the picture with: “I said what I said… I meant what I said.. STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD!”
Texas Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw was among the loudest voices condemning Berry’s response to the anthem and said it had “nothing to do with freedom of speech or the right to protest” because, he explained inexplicably, “The Olympics are different.” Of course, Crenshaw conveniently didn’t say what the Olympics were different from in his misguided comparison.
On Monday, Berry visited the Black News Channel (BNC) to further explain herself unapologetically.
“I never said that I hated the country — never said that,” Berry clarified during the interview with BNC. “All I said was that I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people — point blank, period.”
Watch Berry’s full interview with the Black News Channel below.
Following a year of a purported racial reckoning that was spurred by the police murder of George Floyd, peacefully protesting the American flag and the playing of the national anthem is hardly a novel act. Aside from Kaepernick, plenty of other NFL players have carried on his tradition of kneeling for the national anthem. Many NBA players, coaches and staff did the same thing last year during the “bubble” playoffs as a way to bring attention to the ideals promised by the American flag — “liberty and justice for all” — rarely if ever apply to Black people.