US Olympian Gwen Berry Defends Protest, Says National Anthem ‘Disrespects’ Black Americans

by : Hannah Smith on : 01 Jul 2021 19:09
PA Images

Gwen Berry has explained that she chose to protest the US National Anthem as it ‘disrespects’ Black Americans, after the White House spoke out earlier this week in support of the athlete.

Berry, who is set to represent the United States in the hammer throw at the Tokyo Olympics, has been the target of a conservative backlash after she turned her back on the American flag while the national anthem played during a medal ceremony on Saturday, June 26.


The 32-year old also covered her head with a t-shirt reading ‘activist athlete,’ later explaining ‘the anthem doesn’t speak for me, it never has.’

In an interview with BNC News on Tuesday, July 29, Berry clarified that she believes The Star Spangled Banner ‘disrespects’ Black Americans, pointing to lyrics in the third verse of the anthem that she claimed references violence towards slaves.

‘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,’ she said.


The lyrics in question read:

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 washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave

‘It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for Black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question,’ Berry said. ‘I never said that I hated the country – never said that. All I said was that I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people, point blank, period.’

Gwen Berry says she protested national anthem over 'slave' reference (PA Images)PA Images

Berry has protested the anthem at a number of other events, but has been attacked repeatedly by conservative commentators and lawmakers over the past five days, with many calling for her to be kicked off the US Olympic team for ‘disrespecting’ the flag.

During an appearance on Fox & Friends earlier this week US Representative Dan Crenshaw said ‘we don’t need any more activist athletes… she should be removed from the team.’

On Tuesday, however, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration supported Berry’s right to protest, telling reporters:

Part of [having] pride in our country means recognising there are moments where we are — as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the Constitution, to peacefully protest.


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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: Sport, no-article-matching, Protest, Tokyo Olympics


BNC News/YouTube
  1. BNC News/YouTube

    Gwen Berry Talks Decision to Turn Back on American Flag at Olympic Trials