Her demeanor — hand on hip, smug expression — says it all. Gwen Berry, who qualified for her second U.S. Olympic team during the trials, didn’t need to say a word to let the world know she was “pissed,” as she so eloquently put it, over having to suffer through the playing of the national anthem. But she said much to make her displeasure known.
“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” she said of the anthem being played, according to the New York Post.
“They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,” Berry said in Oregon, where the trials are being held. “I was thinking about what I should do. Eventually I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head.
The shirt in question carried the caption “activist athlete.”
She wasn’t finished, adding, “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”:
My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports. 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.
The article goes on to not that “U.S. Olympic athletes were prohibited in January 2020 from making political statements during anthems, after Berry was put on probation for raising her fist during the Pan-American Games in Peru in August 2019.” The committee reversed its position in April of the same year, setting the stage for kneeling and — ultimately — temper tantrums like the one Berry threw.
The trend toward these shows of petulance has been in the making for years. In 2015, Eric Sheppard, a black coed at Valdosta State University in Georgia and member of the New Black Panther Party, made headlines by jumping up and down on an American flag while gleefully chanting, “F*ck yo’ flag.” And last week, former celebrity Macy Gray earned some fleeting recognition by sharing her design for a new American flag with off-white stripes and stars that represent people of color.
As for Berry’s stunt, it’s time America stopped saluting Americans who hate their country.