Gwen Berry backtracks, says she wants to represent America at upcoming Olympic event
With the prospect of winning an Olympic medal just nights away, hammer thrower Gwen Berry now says she wants to represent the United States’ red, white, and blue uniform, one month after she turned her back on the American flag.
“I feel like I’ve earned the right to wear this uniform,” Berry said on Sunday after making it through the qualifying round in her first appearance at the Tokyo Games.
Back in June, Berry placed third in the U.S. Olympic trials in Oregon. She celebrated her victory by taking the podium and turning away from the American flag as the Star-Spangled Banner played in the background. She also draped a pre-made t-shirt over her head with the words “Activist Athlete.” Berry drew heavy criticism online after her protest, with several people calling for her to be banned from the Tokyo Games.
“Tell the Olympics to BAN Gwen Berry,” Brigitte Gabriel wrote on Twitter. “When you disgrace the flag, you must be BANNED!”
“We don’t need any more activist athletes,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) told Fox & Friends. “The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America.”
After the backlash, Berry insisted that she “never said” that she “hated the country.” She added that she would not have tried out for the team and placed third if she didn’t want to compete on the U.S. Olympic team. Finally, Berry alleged that the playing of the national anthem was a “setup.”
“I feel like it was a setup and they did it on purpose,” Berry said. “I was pissed, to be honest.”
“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 pm. 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,” USA Track and Field spokesperson Susan Hazzard said in response.
Days after the controversy, insensitive tweets Berry had posted years ago began to recirculate throughout the internet. Several of the tweets were distasteful and alluded to rape, racism, and violence against children.
“White people are sooo [sic] retarded when they are drunk,” Berry wrote.
“This lil [sic] white boy being bad as hell,” she wrote in another tweet. “I would smack his ass then stomp him!! White ppl [sic] kids hella [sic] disrespectful.”
“Mexicans just don’t care about ppl [sic],” another tweet read.
“I’m about to rape my lunch,” Berry wrote.
Berry is not expected to make it to the medal podium at the Tokyo Games, as she would have to defeat her teammate, Brooke Anderson, as well as world-leading hammer throwers from Poland and China. However, she told reporters after making it through the qualifying round Saturday that she plans to stage a protest if she makes it that far.
“I’ll represent the oppressed people,” Berry said. “That’s been my message for the last three years. I’m just focused on what I need to do, because all those people who hate me, they aren’t here. So they can’t affect me.”