Gwen Berry, who will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics, has sparked a debate about peaceful protests over her reaction to the National Anthem.
At the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, held in Oregon over the weekend, the 32-year-old hammer thrower placed third and cemented her spot at the Olympics this summer. While accepting her bronze medal on the tiered podium, “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play.
Berry turned away from the flag, toward the crowd, and put her hand on her hip. She then placed a black T-shirt reading “Activist Athlete” over her head and looked down at her feet.
The next day, Berry posted a photo of her defiant pose on Twitter and captioned it, “Stop playing with me.”
The Missouri native explained her stance to the Associated Press, saying, “My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports… 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.”
Her protest appears to have been spontaneous, as Berry said she didn’t expect to hear the anthem while celebrating her victory. She told the outlet that she thought the anthem would play before she walked out.