Gwendolyn Berry says she believes she was set up at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Saturday (June 26). But now, a U.S. congressman is criticizing Berry, saying she should no longer be an olympian.
The 32-year-old finished third in the hammer throw and as she stood on the podium, the playing of the national anthem unexpectedly began, which caused her to turn away from the American flag and place a T-shirt reading “Activist Athlete” over her head.
“I feel like they did that on purpose,” Berry said after the ceremony, adding she felt like it was “set up.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw balked at that during an appearance on Fox and Friends on Monday.
“We don’t need any more activist athletes,” said Crenshaw, a Texas Republican. “She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It’s the entire point.”
Berry said she was attempting to raise awareness around systemic racism and police brutality in America. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement to USA Today that the anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. PST regardless of who was on the podium.
“It’s one thing when the NBA does it. OK, we’ll just stop watching,” Crenshaw continued on Monday. “But now the Olympic team? And it’s multiple cases of this. They should be removed. That should be the bare minimum requirement, is that you believe in the country you’re representing.”
Berry, however, clapped back with a tweet directed at Berry and his comments.
But she also tried to clarify her stance since she had received so much backlash over her gesture during the Olympic trials.
“I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games. That’s why I competed and got third and made the team,” Berry said in an interview with the Black News Channel on Monday, according to CNN. “I never said that I hated the country, never said that. All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people point blank, period.”
Berry’s actions during the anthem did not violate any official USOPC rules and athletes were informed in December that anyone who peacefully protested or demonstrated at the Tokyo Olympics will not be punished.
“The USOPC’s decision recognizes that Team USA athletes serve as a beacon of inspiration and unity globally, and their voices have and will be a force for good and progress in our society,” wrote USOPC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland in a letter to athletes.
Additionally, via Twitter, Berry posted a picture of herself on the podium and the caption, “Stop playing with me.”
“Sports is entertainment. But my purpose and my voice and my mission is bigger than the sport,” Berry added on Saturday, according to USA Today. “So me being able to represent my communities and my people, and those who have died at the hands of police brutality, those who have died (due) to this systemic racism – I feel like that’s the important part.”