‘Activist athlete’ Gwen Berry says she felt ‘set-up’ when she turned her back to the US flag during the national anthem at Olympic trials

Gwen Berry turns away from U.S flag during national anthem at U.S U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
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. Price won, Andersen was second and Berry finished third. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
  • Gwen Berry turned from the American Flags as the “Star-Spangled Banner” played during the U.S Olympic trials.
  • “I feel like it was set up,” Berry said, the Washington Post reported.
  • Berry also placed a Black t-shirt over her head that said “Activist Athlete.”
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Gwen Berry, a 31-year-old Olympic hammer thrower, pivoted away from the U.S flag while the national anthem was playing at the track and field trials in Oregon on Saturday, according to reports.

While standing on the podium to receive a bronze medal during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, the anthem started to play prompting Berry to turn away facing the stands. She then placed a black t-shirt over her head, the Associated Press reported.

The words on her shirt had a phrase in bold white letters that said: “Activist Athlete.” The other two athletes, Brooke Andersen and DeAnna Price remained on the podium facing the flag.

The Associated Press reported that the anthem is not usually played at the Olympic trials when the athletes receive their medals. However, the award ceremony occurred just prior to the start of the session in the evening, when the anthem is usually played.

“I feel like it was set up. I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest,” Berry said, the Washington Post reported. “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.”

Olympic hammer thrower, Gwen Berry, places Black t-shirt that says: “Activist Athlete” over her head at U.S. Olympic Trials on Saturday.
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

“It was funny because they said they were going to play it before we walked out,” Berry said, according to the Post.

“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,” a spokesperson USA Track and Field representative told the AP. “The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.”

-Gwen Berry (@MzBerryThrows) June 27, 2021

Berry has been consistent with her activism. The Washington Post reported that she put up her fist on the stage at the Pan-American Games in 2019.

The Tokyo Olympic qualifier said her purpose goes beyond sports, according to the Associated Press.

“I don’t need to do anything sport-wise,” she said, according to the AP. “What I need to do is speak for my community, to represent my community, and to help my community. Because that’s more important than sports.”