U.S. athlete Gwen Berry said Sunday the criticism she received for turning her back to the American flag during the national anthem proved two things.
The hammer thrower finished in third place during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Saturday, earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Her decision to turn her back on the flag and cover her face in the heat with a shirt that read “Activist Athlete” was what drew the scrutiny.
Berry, on Twitter, blasted the nasty messages she was receiving.
“These comments really show that:
“1.) people in American rally patriotism over basic morality
“2.) Even after the murder of George Floyd and so many others; the commercials, statements, and phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.”
Berry thanked those who did come to her defense.
“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 tweeted.
On Saturday, Berry took issue with the timing of the national anthem and said she was told the anthem would be played before she stepped onto the podium.
“I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said. “I was pissed, to be honest.”
Gold and silver medalists DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen faced the flag with their right hands over their hearts while Berry faced away and toward the stands.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there … But I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important,” she said. “The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”
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)
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” she continued. “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.”
A USA Track and Field spokesperson disputed Berry’s claim that it was a set-up.
Berry won gold medals at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival and the 2019 Pan American Games. She was sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee after raising a fist in protest at the end of the playing of the national anthem.
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj and the Associated Press contributed to this report.