‘Totally not all an act!’: Photo of Gwen Berry brandishing the Stars and Stripes from her OWN website goes viral amid uproar over her turning her back during national anthem
- Gwen Berry staged a protest on the podium at the Olympic trials on Sunday
- The 31-year-old hammer thrower turned her back on the flag and anthem
- On Wednesday an old photo of Berry happily posing with the flag went viral
- ‘Totally not all an act!’ tweeted Trump Jr as people accused her of seeking fame
- The photo was posted to her website in a June 2015 blog post
- Berry’s website has since been taken down
- She has faced previous bans from the sport for her activism but has continued
- Berry claims third verse of anthem is racist – its meaning is disputed
An old photo of hammer thrower Gwen Berry smiling with the U.S. flag has gone viral after she courted controversy on Sunday by turning her back on the Stars and Stripes during Olympic trials.
Berry, 31, is seen in the undated photo – posted to her website in June 2015 – beaming as she holds aloft the flag.
Critics pounced on the image, claiming it showed Berry was a fraud who only staged her protest on Sunday to raise her profile.
A photo of Gwen Berry posing with the U.S. flag – posted to her website in June 2015 – has gone viral, after Berry staged a protest on Sunday and insisted the national anthem did not represent her
Toward the end of the anthem, Berry plucked up her black T-shirt with the words ‘Activist Athlete’ emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head
Gwen Berry raises 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
‘Totally not all an act!’ tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
‘She was definitely not protesting to get attention for herself and/or maybe some of those woke Nike sponsorship dollars. 100% legit and not at all a cottage industry victimization scheme we see so much of these days.’
Brigitte Gabriel, founder of security organization ACT America, agreed, commenting: ‘This image is directly from Gwen Berry’s website. It looks like her entire ‘Activist Athlete’ bit is an act!’
And Katrina Pierson, former spokesman for Donald Trump, tweeted: ‘Oops!’
Berry’s website has since been taken down.
Berry sparked anger with her actions on Sunday, and has spent the week battling her critics online.
The Ferguson, Missouri-born athlete was on the podium at the trials in Oregon on Saturday when the anthem started playing. Her white competitors, DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen, turned to face the flag and placed their hands on their hearts but Berry, a vocal BLM activist, turned to face the stands, put her hands on her hips and then held up a t-shirt bearing the words ‘athlete activist’.
Visitors to Berry’s website are now greeted with this error message
In interviews later, she said she felt like officials only played the anthem to ‘set her up’ and that she had been told it would be played before she walked on to the podium, not while she was there.
She also said she didn’t want to be standing for pictures for long because it was hot.
The trial organizers insisted this wasn’t the case and that the anthem played every day at the same time.
On Monday, Berry was criticized by conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz who said her protest was disrespectful, and who claimed she hated her country.
Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said she ought to be removed from the Olympics.
‘The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It’s the entire point. It’s one thing when these NBA players do it, OK we’ll just stop watching. But now the Olympics Team?’ he said in an interview with Fox.
Berry responded on Instagram: ‘I said what I said… I meant what I said.. STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD!’
On Twitter, she said: ‘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.
‘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.’
On Tuesday, Berry told the Black News Channel why she protested.
‘I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games, that’s why I competed and got third and made the team,’ Berry said.
‘I never said that I hated the country. I never said that. All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand for or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people. Point blank, period.’
Berry claimed she specifically has an issue with a line in The Star-Spangled Banner, which she says alludes to catching and beating slaves.
Berry said: ‘If you know your history, you know the full song of the national anthem, the third paragraph speaks to slaves in America, our blood being slain…all over the floor.
‘It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for Black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.’ Whether or not the line is actually racist remains a point of discussion among historians.
Berry lashed out at Fox News and Dan Crenshaw, saying they were ‘obsessed’ with her
Berry also defended her protest in a series of tweets and Instagram posts, saying ‘I meant what I said!’
Berry previously protested during competition against racism, most recently raising a fist at the trials on Thursday, and said that she felt insulted by the Star-Spangled Banner playing as she took the podium.
‘They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,’ she said.
‘I was thinking about what I should do.
‘Eventually I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful.
‘It really wasn’t a message. I didn’t really want to be up there.
‘Like I said, it was a setup. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade,’ added Berry.
‘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.’
USA Track and Field said the anthem was played once every day at the trials according to a published schedule.
‘I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,’ said Berry (right), who finished third to make her second U.S. Olympic team. ‘I was pissed, to be honest.’
Berry raises her fist at the trials on Thursday, after USOPC reversed its ban on athlete protests and apologized for sanctioning her for a similar protest in 2019
GWEN BERRY LOST SPONSORSHIP AFTER RAISING FIST AT 2019 PAN AM GAMES
Gwen Berry has long used her platform as an athlete to protest racism in America.
The 31-year-old grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, in a household of 13. She was raised largely by her grandmother.
Berry became pregnant at 15 and had her son, Derrick. It was at college, which she attended on a scholarship as a single mom, that she developed her talent for hammer throw.
Berry at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima
Gwen Berry raises her first on the podium at the 2019 Pan Am Lima Games
Before qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, she worked two jobs – one at Dicks Sporting Goods and another delivering Insomnia cookies – to support herself and her family.
Her activism first made headlines in 2019, when she raised her fist at the Pan Am Games in Lima after winning gold.
She was put on probation by the International Olympic Committee for a year and she says she lost $50,000 because of it.
‘It affected my family and how I’m able to take care of them. I lost sponsorships. My career has been assassinated too. Or at least they’re trying to assassinate it,’ she said at the time.
It was around the same Colin Kaepernick’s protests in the NFL were triggering a debate of whether or not athletes should be allowed to use the field or sport they played in to make political or social protests.
Saturday’s schedule listed the time for the anthem as 5.20pm, though it began at around 5.25pm.
‘We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards,’ spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said in a statement.
‘The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.’
‘We’re thrilled with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games,’ added Hazzard.
Berry was suspended for 12 months by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) for a raised fist at the 2019 Pan American Games, but did so again before Thursday’s qualifying round as part of her quest for social change.
The USOPC in March reversed its stance and said that athletes competing in the U.S. Olympic trials can protest, including kneeling or raising a clenched fist on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem.
Berry has promised to use her position to keep raising awareness about social injustices in her home country.
‘My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,’ Berry said.
‘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.’
Last June, Berry demanded a letter of apology from USOPC for sanctioning her over her 2019 Pan American Games protest, and then revised her demand to ask for a public apology from USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland.
Hirshland met the demand and issued a statement after meeting with Berry privately.
‘I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,’ Hirshland said in the statement.
‘I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.’
Now, Berry will be heading to her second Olympics, and on Saturday she saw what it will take to earn a spot on the podium in Tokyo.
DeAnna Price won the trials with a throw of 263 feet, 6 inches, which was nearly 7 feet longer than Berry’s throw. Brooke Andersen took second place.
Price, who became only the second woman in history to crack 80 meters, said she had no problem sharing the stage with Berry.
‘I think people should say whatever they want to say. I’m proud of her,’ Price said.
Berry said she needs to get ‘my body right, my mind right and my spirit right’ for the Olympics.
The women’s hammer throw starts August 1 in Tokyo.
Athletes will be allowed to protest at next year’s Tokyo Games without facing any form of punishment.
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