Olympic athlete Gwen Berry, who on Saturday turned away from the US flag during the national anthem, doubled down on her controversial protest Monday — insisting the anthem is “disrespectful” to black Americans.
“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,” Berry, 31, said on Black News Channel, a CNN affiliate.
“It’s disrespectful, and it does not speak for black Americans.”
“It’s obvious,” she added. “There’s no question.”
The third paragraph of the anthem contains the lyrics, “their blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution,” and, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”
The two-time Olympic qualifying hammer thrower also reiterated earlier comments she made on Twitter in response to the backlash, insisting she does not hate her country.
“I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic games. I never said that I hated the country. I never said that,” Berry told the outlet.
“All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them.”
The athlete’s comments come after she claimed that the incident at the Olympic trials in Oregon was a “setup.”
“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said Saturday after the “Star-Spangled Banner” played while she stood on the podium with her bronze medal.
She insisted that the national anthem playing while she stood there was deliberate after her previous anthem protest during the 2019 Pan-American Games in Peru.
“I was pissed, to be honest,” she said.
The demonstration sparked fiery criticism, including from Sen. Tom Cotton, who said Berry should be yanked off the United States’ roster.
“If Ms. Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there’s no reason she needs to compete for our country,” the Arkansas senator said Monday on Fox News. “She should be removed from the Olympic team.”
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki came to Berry’s defense on Monday.
“I haven’t spoken to the president specifically about this, but I know he’s incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world,” she told reporters at her daily briefing.
“He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we are — as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals,” Psaki added.
“And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”