Gwen Berry responds to criticism of Olympic protest: ‘I never said I hated this country’

Gwen Berry has responded to several complaints and criticisms aimed at her after she protested during the playing of the national anthem at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic trials on Saturday.

Berry, an outspoken activist as well as track and field athlete, earned a bronze medal in the hammer throw to earn a berth to the Tokyo Games; during the medal ceremony, she turned away from the American flag and displayed a black T-shirt that read “Activist Athlete” on the front. Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, she said she felt organizers deliberately played the “Star-Spangled Banner” to coincide with the ceremony.

“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said. “I was pissed, to be honest.”

A spokeswoman for USA Track and Field said the playing of the anthem — which occurred once every evening at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. — was scheduled for 5:20 p.m. It ultimately played at 5:25 p.m. to coincide with Berry’s trip to the medal podium.

MORE: Gwen Berry turns from flag as national anthem plays: ‘I feel like it was a setup’

Amid online criticism of her stance, Berry continued to stand by her point, tweeting a photo on Sunday with the caption, “Stop playing with me.”

Berry posted several messages she received from people who criticized her stance, many of which included vulgar or otherwise distrustful language. She also responded to more notable critics such as Fox News and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), the latter of whom said she should be removed from the team for turning her back on the flag.

Berry also claimed everything negative she has heard after her demonstration — which, she says, has been twisted to misrepresent her message — is proof that critics “rally patriotism over basic morality.”

MORE: USA Olympic track and field trials results: Tracking the 2021 U.S. team for every men’s, women’s event

Others have responded positively or otherwise defended Berry’s right to protest. White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended her demonstration when asked about it Monday.

“I know (President Joe 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 where we are, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals. And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”

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