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The penultimate day of the U.S. Olympic trials in track and field saw quite the coincidence. Or not, as Gwen Berry believes.
The American hammer thrower qualified for her second Olympics on Saturday with a throw of 241 feet and 2 inches, finishing third in the event behind DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen. All three will head to Tokyo, but the intrigue began when the trio took the podium for their medal ceremony.
Unlike the Olympics, the national anthem is not played during medal ceremonies at the Olympic trials. It has been played once per day at a set time. And that time just happened to coincide with when Berry, who has made headlines for protesting during the anthem, took the podium.
Berry responded by turning away from the American flag and raising a T-shirt reading "Activist Athlete" over her face, per Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post.
Afterward, she had something to say on Twitter about the matter, which she called a set-up:
She expanded on that thought with the Post:
“I feel like it was set up,” Berry said with a burst of laughter. “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest. I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be all right. I see what’s up.”
Berry was heavily sanctioned and lost sponsors in 2019 when she raised a closed fist on the medal podium after capturing gold in the Pan American Games. She has continued to speak out since then, denouncing the Olympics for maintaining their anti-protest policy and demanding an apology from the United States Olympic Committee as the conversation changed around institutional racism.
The organizers of the Olympic trials insisted to ESPN that it was merely a coincidence they played the national anthem during the medal ceremony of their most politically outspoken athlete, though their timetable didn't quite line up:
USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said "the national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today. We didn't wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule." On Saturday, the music started at 5:25.
Thanks to Berry's qualification, a similar situation could play out in Tokyo later this summer. Berry told the Post she hasn't decided how she might protest, but promised "I’ll figure out something to do."
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