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“I feel like it was a set-up”: Athlete, opponents outraged over anthem controversy

Jun 28, 2021

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Headshot of <p class="author-name text-name1">Alex Peebles</p> />
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					<p class=Alex Peebles

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A national anthem controversy at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend has even the athlete who was protesting outraged.

For the past week, they’ve played the national anthem one time a night at the trials.

On Saturday, the song happened to start while outspoken activist Gwen Berry was standing on the podium after receiving her bronze medal in the hammer throw.

While the music played, Berry placed her left hand on her hip and shuffled her feet. She took a quarter turn, so she was facing the stands, not the flag. Toward the end, she plucked up her black T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head.

According to a spokesperson for USA Track and Field, the national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. Saturday. It played at 5:25 p.m.

“I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said of the timing of the anthem. “I was pissed, to be honest.”

Meanwhile, critics of anthem protests let their voices heard on social media. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted, “Why does the Left hate America? Sure, we have our faults, but no nation in the history of the world has liberated more people from captivity, has lifted more out of poverty, has bled more for freedom, or has blessed more w/ abundance.”

In response to Cruz, and other opponents, Berry tweeted, “Thank you! I never said I hated this country! People try to put words in my mouth but they can’t. That’s why I speak out.”

This is not the first time Berry has drawn attention for national anthem protests at major competitions. She was suspended for a year for raising her fist during the anthem at the 2019 Pan-American Games.

Gwen Baumgardner: THE STAR-SPANGELED BANNER IS A PART OF MANY CEREMONIES — LIKE THIS RECENT MEDAL CEREMONY FOR FIREFIGHTERS IN NEW YORK.
BUT WHEN IT WAS PLAYED AT THE MEDLA CEREMONY FOR NEW OLYMPIAN GWEN BERRY, CONTROVERSY ERUPTED.
BECAUSE WHEN THE SONG PLAYED, SHE TURNED AWAY FROM THE FLAG —
AND PUT ON A T SHIRT THAT SAID ACTIVIST ATHLETE.
THIS IS NOT HER FIRST ANTHEM PROTEST.
SHE RAISED HER FIST DURING THE ANTHEM AT THE PAN-AM GAMES BACK IN 20-19.
WHAT MAKES THIS ONE DIFFERENT IS THE ANTHEM WAS *NOT* SUPPOSED TO PLAY AT ALL DURING HER CEREMONY.
ORGANIZERS HAD TOLD ATHLETES THE SONG WOULD ONLY BE PLAYED ONCE A DAY, AND BEFORE ATHLETES STARTED COMPETING.
SO BERRY IS SAYING SHE FEELS QUOTE “SET UP”
AS IS TYPICAL WITH ANTHEM PROTESTS — MANY PEOPLE SHARED THEIR DISTASTE FOR BERRY’S ACTIONS.
SENATOR TED CRUZ TWEETED SUNDAY — ASKING QUOTE “WHY DOES THE LEFT HATE AMERICA?”
BERRY REACTED TO ALL THE CRITICISM WITH A TWEET OF HER OWN SAYING IN PART “I NEVER SAID I HATED THIS COUNTRY! PEOPLE TRY TO PUT WORDS IN MY MOUTH BUT THEY CAN’T THATS WHY I SPEAK OUT”