Hammer Thrower Gwen Berry Turns Back to American Flag During National Anthem

By: Alyssa Wilson

Hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned her back to the American flag during the playing of the national anthem while on the podium at the US Olympic track and field trials. 

Berry came in third in the hammer event at the trials and said the moment during the awards ceremony felt like a setup, CNN reported. “I feel like it was set up. I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest,” she said. “I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be alright. I see what’s up.”  

RELATED: Dr. John Carlos, who raised a fist during 1968 Olympics, reacts to Olympic ban on protests  

Gwendolyn Berry her Activist Athlete T-Shirt over her head during the metal ceremony after the finals of the women’s hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. Berry finished third. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The shirt she draped over her head as she stood on the podium had the words “activist athlete” on it. According to ESPN, Berry said she was told the “Star-Spangled Banner” would be played before the hammer throwers went out, but instead, it was played during the awards ceremony. “They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” she said. “But I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important.” 


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A post shared by Gwen Berry (@mzberrythrows_)

Berry posted about the moment on Instagram with the caption,”I said what I said …I meant what I said …STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD!” On Twitter, she said the reaction to her decision to turn away from the flag proves “phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.”  

This is not the first time Berry has used the platform to protest injustice. In 2019, she lost sponsorships and income after raising her fist in protest at the Pan American Games in Peru. Following the incident, she received a one-year probation from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.  

Earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee maintained its ban on athletes protesting at ceremonies, on podiums, and inside stadiums. The committee’s Rule 50 bans any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in venues and any other areas of the Olympics. 

RELATED: Athletes who take a knee during Tokyo Olympics will be punished 

If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here. 

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