Hammer thrower Gwen Berry is insisting that the national anthem is disrespectful to black Americans and that she was set up by having to endure it after making the U.S. Olympic team on Saturday.
Berry placed third during the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, and was getting her bronze medal when the anthem began playing. While Olympic qualifiers DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen looked at the flag, Berry turned away and eventually covered her head with black T-shirt reading “Activist Athlete.”
She claimed she had been “set up” and that the anthem playing was a deliberate act against her.
“It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose,” Berry said.
USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard has said the timing was a coincidence.
But during an appearance Monday on the Black News Channel, Berry insisted she was right — both that she was set up and that the anthem was not worth her respect.
“We were not even supposed to be on the podium during the singing or the playing of the national anthem,” Berry said.
“The directions were that we were going to be introduced to the crowd before the anthem was going to be played or after the anthem was going to be played. No one made any mention or any notion that we would be on the podium or had to be on the podium during the singing of the national anthem,” she said, claiming that no other group of athletes were on the podium, while the anthem was playing. “I want to make that clear.”
“However, we went out to introduce ourselves to the crowd. Coincidentally, the national anthem was playing and they asked us to stand on the podium,” Berry said.
“In that moment, I feel like it was a setup,” she said.
Berry was then asked why she hated the anthem.
“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 and … all over the floor,” she said. “It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no, there’s no question.”
Berry’s musicological perspective reflects a point of view that has been discredited in the years since it was advanced as part of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s assault on the anthem.
The section of Francis Scott Key’s manuscript to which she refers reads:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Mark Clague, a musicologist at the University of Michigan and the founding board chairman of the Star Spangled Music Foundation, set the record straight in 2016.
“The reference to slaves is about the use, and in some sense the manipulation, of black Americans to fight for the British, with the promise of freedom. The American forces included African-Americans as well as whites. The term ‘freemen,’ whose heroism is celebrated in the fourth stanza, would have encompassed both,” he said, according to The New York Times.
The fact-checking website Snopes said that Key “may have intended the phrase as a reference to the British Navy’s practice of impressment (kidnapping sailors and forcing them to fight in defense of the crown), or as a semi-metaphorical slap at the British invading force as a whole (which included a large number of mercenaries), though the latter line of thinking suggests an even stronger alternative theory — namely, that the word ‘hirelings’ refers literally to mercenaries, and ‘slaves’ refers literally to slaves. It doesn’t appear that Francis Scott Key ever specified what he did mean by the phrase, nor does its context point to a single, definitive interpretation.”
Many have criticized Berry’s actions.
Why does the Left hate America?
Sure, we have our faults, but no nation in the history of the world has liberated more people from captivity, has lifted more out of poverty, has bled more for freedom, or has blessed more w/ abundance.
God bless America. https://t.co/7hH1FMzEn0
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 28, 2021
Dan Crenshaw: Gwen Berry Should Be Removed from Olympics https://t.co/tCU69x9VTx
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) June 28, 2021
If Gwen Berry can’t hear the national anthem without throwing a tantrum, she should let someone else go to the Olympics who feels pride, not shame in their country – and who won’t embarrass America in front of the whole world. https://t.co/yd5ELOIMBl pic.twitter.com/4dvPcwNPjx
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 28, 2021
If Gwen Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there’s no reason she needs to compete for our country at the Olympics. pic.twitter.com/8OeXVOPqVd
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) June 29, 2021
— Errol Webber (@ErrolWebber) June 28, 2021
Berry, however, insisted her hatred for the anthem has nothing to do with representing the United States at the Olympics.
“I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games,” she said in the interview Monday. “That’s why I competed and got third and made the team.”
“I never said that I hated the country,” she added. “Never said that. All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people. Point blank, period.”
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