White House defends Olympian Gwen Berry’s right to peacefully protest American flag

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if President Joe Biden believed Berry’s action was appropriate for an athlete representing the United States at the Olympics. She responded by saying she had not spoken to the president about the athlete’s actions, but knew he would defend them.

“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.”

In March, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said athletes participating in the trials were permitted to take part in “respectful demonstrations on the topic of racial and social justice,” and mentioned holding up a fist or kneeling during the national anthem as examples.

Gwen Berry earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team after her performance in the hammer-throw over the weekend at trials in Eugene, Oregon. On Saturday at the event, as the national anthem was playing, she turned away from the American flag, which sparked both outrage and praise on social media.

Having taken her activism to the field in the past, Berry said she felt she was “set up” and said she was told the anthem would be played before the medalists took the podium. At one point, she held up a t-shirt over her head which read, “Activist Athlete”. “I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry told the Associated Press. “I was pissed, to be honest.” An official has suggested the timing was purely coincidental.

After facing criticism on social media, Berry said her critics prove that some in America “rally patriotism over basic morality” and that even after what many deemed a racial reckoning last year, she said, “sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.” “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. I LOVE MY PEOPLE,” she said in a tweet early Monday (@MzBerryThrows).

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) commented on Berry’s actions, “If Ms. Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there’s no reason she needs to compete for our country. She should be removed from the Olympic team,” Cotton told Fox News Monday. House Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) also spoke to Fox News about Berry, “The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That’s the entire point, OK?” Crenshaw said. “That should be the bare minimum requirement, is that you believe in the country you’re representing.”

In response to Crenshaw, Berry tweeted, “At this point, y’all are obsessed with me.” In defense of Berry, former GOP candidate for president and “Never Trumper”, Joe Walsh, tweeted, “believes systemic racism is still a big problem in this country. She wants America to be better. That doesn’t sound like someone who ‘despises’ America.”



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