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There is no backing down from Gwen Berry even as the criticism poured in this week over her decision to turn her back on the podium while the national anthem played at U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
Berry on Wednesday responded to a tweet demanding her to respect the flag and the national anthem. The Olympian hammer thrower said her goal is just to compete and bring home gold for the U.S.
“The point is to compete … which I will be doing,” she fired back.
Her demonstrations has led to calls from conservative voices for her to step aside. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Sen., have been among the loudest voices. Berry has received support from many on social media, including Olympic legend Michael Johnson.
Berry made the Olympic team as a hammer thrower after finishing third last weekend at the trials behind DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson.
She drew scrutiny after she turned her back during the national anthem. She then draped a shirt with the world “ACTIVIST ATHLETE” over her head as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played.
Amid scrutiny and boisterous claims she shouldn’t be representing the U.S. in the Games, Berry fired back in an interview with the Black News Channel on Tuesday.
“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.”
On her decision to turn away on Saturday, she said at the time she was upset with the timing of the anthem.
“They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,” Berry said, according to The New York Post. “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.”
Berry claimed she was told that the anthem would be played before she took the podium.
They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there … 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.”
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” she continued. “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.”
A spokesperson for USA Track and Field disputed Berry’s claim that it was a set up.
Berry was previously sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic committee after raising her fist during the national anthem at the 2019 Pan-Am Games.
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.
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