After Gwen Berry placed third in a hammer throwing competition to qualify for the US Olympic track-and-field team, she stood on the podium and turned her back as the US anthem was played. This led many politicians and pundits to call for her removal from the team.
Among those were Senator Tom Cotton, who said "I don't think it's too much, when athletes are competing to wear the Stars and Stripes—to compete under the Stars and Stripes in the Olympics—for them to simply honor that flag and our anthem on the medal stand," Cotton told Fox News Primetime on Monday.
"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."
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas had similar sentiments, saying "We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That's the entire point, okay?"
"This is one thing when we see NBA players do it, okay fine; we'll just stop watching," Crenshaw said, "but now the Olympic team? It's multiple cases of this. They should be removed. That should be the bare minimum requirement is that you believe in the country representing."
Berry stood on the podium next to the gold and silver medal winning finalists, turned her back, and put a t-shirt over her head that read "activist athlete."
Of the anthem playing while she was on the podium receiving a medal and finalizing her spot on the US Olympic team, Berry said "I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose. I was pissed, to be honest.''
The national anthem tends to play at both the Olympics and Olympic qualifying events, but when it played while she was on the podium, Berry felt personally targeted by the Star Spangled Banner.
Gwen Berry told ESPN: "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. The anthem doesn't speak for me. It never has.''
Berry was not fond of the blowback she received for her exhibition of athletic activism. She commented that Americans care more about patriotism than morality, and that the national conversation about race and racism over the last year in the wake of George Floyd's death was mere lip service.
Representative Mark Green was not a fan.
Ohio Congressman Warren Davidson tweeted: "If you don't respect America, don't represent America. No such person should have any part in Team USA."
Tennessee Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger said, "She is unfit to represent the United States on the world stage."
Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan: “If you hate our country so much, why are you representing us on the world stage?”
A congressional hopeful tweeted out: "The great thing about America is that if you don’t like it here, you are free to go somewhere where you will fit in. Try doing this shit on a platform if you were representing Russia, Iran or China. Go compete for them."
Others say its grounds to get kicked off team USA. It wasn’t the first time Gwen Berry acted this way at a high-profile event. After raising a fist at the August 2019 Pan American games, Gwen Berry faced a potential sanction for violating the rules of making political gestures.
Similar rules forbidding such actions are in place for the 2020 Tokyo games.
The White House supported Berry, with the press secretary saying that President Joe Biden believes "pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we as a country haven't lived up to our highest ideals."