As anthem plays during Olympic trials medaling, Gwen Berry makes a stand

“I feel like it was setup,” Berry says after she turned away during the playing of the U.S. national anthem during her medal ceremony

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Gwen Berry has been politically outspoken in her career and on Saturday the American track and field athlete felt forced to make a stand during the Olympic trials during a medal ceremony.

While receiving a bronze medal for hammer throwing in the qualifiers in Eugene, Oregon, Berry did not expect the U.S. national anthem to be played, prompting her to turn away from the flag with her head down and subsequently draping a black t-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” over her head.

“I feel like it was setup,” Berry said, the outlet reports.

Gwendolyn Berry, left, looks away as DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen stand for the national anthem 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. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

According to The Washington Post, the Star-Spangled Banner is only played once each day during Olympic trials, unlike at the Olympics where it is played during every medal ceremony.

“I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest,” Berry continued. “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 all right. I see what’s up.”

Berry is no stranger to using her athletic platform to protest injustice. TheGrio reported that she faced a 12-month probation in August 2019 for raising her fist on the podium during the Pan-American Games in Peru.

According to ESPN, USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard explained the timing of the anthem, saying “the national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today. We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.”

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)

However, Berry said she was told something different, and explained that she turned away because the anthem is insignificant to her.

“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” said Berry, who is 31 years old. “But I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”

Berry took third place in the hammer throw, earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. DeAnna Price took gold in the event during trials, while Brooke Andersen took silver, as reported by ESPN. With Berry heading to the Tokyo Games, she says she doesn’t plan to stop her protests.

“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry said as reported by ESPN. “I’m here to represent those… who died due to systemic racism. That’s the important part. That’s why I’m going. That’s why I’m here today.”

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