Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry faced intense backlash after she decided not to face the flag during the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Berry traveled to Eugene, Oregon for the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this month. While there, Berry faced tough competition from DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson. Price led the way by setting the American record with a throw of 80.31 meters. Anderson finished in second with a throw of 77.72 meters and Berry rounded out the top three with a throw of 73.5 meters.
After earning the top three spots at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Price, Anderson and Berry stood at the podium to receive their medals. As usual, the national anthem was played and the top two finishers faced the flag with their hands on their hearts. Meanwhile, Berry continued to face forward with her flowers in her hand.
Berry has protested during the national anthem before. In 2019, she declined to face the flag during the Pan American Games. However, her protest in Eugene was not as organized or planned. She said that she felt set up because she was told that the anthem would be played before she took the medal stand.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” Berry said.
“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's anthem protest did not draw much criticism from those in the stands, but conservative lawmakers did decide to chime in. Rep. Dan Crenshaw even called for her to be removed from the Olympic team.
"What is wrong with people?" former presidential candidate Scott Walker tweeted.
"Growing up, everyone stood for the American flag. Didn't matter your politics, race, sex, income, religion; everyone stood for the flag. It was one of those civic rituals that brought us together. It still should today."
While Walker, Crenshaw and Sen. Ted Cruz called out Berry, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki respected her right to protest.
"I know (Biden) is incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents," Psaki said.
"He would also say that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven't lived up to our highest ideals, and means respecting the right of people granted in the Constitution to peacefully protest."
After experiencing days of backlash and somewhat support of the Biden administration, Berry issued another tweet addressing the matter.
"I never said I hated this country," Berry tweeted.
"People try to put words in my mouth but they can't. That's why I speak out."