Politics

Gwen Berry Says National Anthem Is ‘Disrespectful’ To Black Americans

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eam USA Olympian Gwen Berry says she is not anti-American and insists she should still compete in the Tokyo 2021 games after turning away from the American flag during the national anthem.

Speaking to the Black News Channel about the backlash the gesture received, Berry said 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, who is sponsored by the leftist defund-the-police advocate group Color of Change, added: ‘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.’

The two-time Olympian – who turned 32 on Tuesday – explained that she takes offense to the third line of the Star-Spangled Banner, which references slavery.

Berry said: ‘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. It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.’

The offending part of the song 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 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.’

In the BNC interview, Berry says that the song is a reference to catching and beating runaway slaves.

This interpretation of the lyrics is disputed. Some historians claim the words are intended as a direct threat towards slaves, whereas others claim it is about manipulating black Americans to fight for the British having been promised their freedom in return.

While the anthem played at the trials in Eugene, Oregon, Berry placed her left hand on her hip and shuffled her feet. The athlete, who was awarded a bronze which qualified her for this year’s Olympics, took a quarter turn, so she was facing the stands, not the flag.

Toward the end, she plucked up her black T-shirt with the words ‘Activist Athlete’ emblazoned on the front, and draped it over her head.

Berry’s Saturday protest isn’t the first time she demonstrated against the National Anthem on the Olympic podium. After winning a gold medal at the summer 2019 Pan American Games, she put a fist in the air at the close of the song.

Berry drew harsh criticism after that protest, and was called anti-American and dragged on social media for allegedly disrespecting the troops. At the time, her father Michael, an Iraq war veteran, defended her actions and said, ‘For her to do that on the podium is more American than anything, if you ask me, because that’s what our country is founded on: freedom of expression, freedom of speech.’

Most recently, she raised a fist again at the trials on Thursday. When the song played after she earned third to make her second U. S. Olympic team, she said that she thought it was a ‘set-up’ done on ‘purpose’ to rile her up. ‘

‘I was pissed, to be honest,’ Berry said.

But USA Track and Field said the anthem was played once every day at the trials according to a published schedule.

Saturday’s schedule listed the time for the anthem as 5.20pm, though it began at around 5.25pm – just as Berry took the podium.

She subsequently claimed that the delay was a deliberate attempt to wind her up.

‘We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards,’ spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said in a statement. ‘The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.’

‘We’re thrilled with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games,’ added Hazzard.

Berry was suspended for 12 months by the U. S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee after her raised fist at the 2019 Pan American Games. However, the USOPC in March reversed its stance and said that athletes competing in the U.S. Olympic trials can protest, including kneeling or rai… (Read more)

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