Gwendolyn Berry said the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner following her third place finish in the hammer throw at U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Saturday felt like "a setup."
The previously outspoken thrower added: "I feel like they did that on purpose."
As she stood on the podium and the national anthem unexpectedly played, she turned away from the American flag and placed a T-shirt that read "Activist Athlete" over her head.
One U.S. congressman said Berry, and other athletes who follow suit with such demonstrations, should be kicked off Team USA.
"We don't need any more activist athletes," Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said during an appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" Monday. "She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It's the entire point."
Gwendolyn Berry aka Gwen Berry reacts after placing third in the women's hammer with a throw of 241-2 (73.50m) during the US Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Berry said Saturday her actions were to bring attention to systemic racism and police brutality. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports that the anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. local time regardless of who was on the podium.
"It's one thing when the NBA does it. OK, we'll just stop watching," Crenshaw continued Monday. "But now the Olympic team? And it's multiple cases of this. They should be removed. That should be the bare minimum requirement, is that you believe in the country you're representing."
(It's worth noting NBA playoff ratings are up compared to last year's postseason in the Disney "bubble.")
Berry's actions did not violate any official USOPC rules. The body informed athletes last December that athletes who peacefully protest or demonstrate at the Tokyo Olympics will not be punished.
"The USOPC's decision recognizes that Team USA athletes serve as a beacon of inspiration and unity globally, and their voices have and will be a force for good and progess in our society," USOPC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter to athletes.
I value the voices of Team USA athletes and believe that their right to advocate for racial and social justice and act as a force for good deserves the support of the USOPC. My full letter to Team USA athletes: pic.twitter.com/xAUBKKR5iX
It was quite a reversal from the USOPC's 2019 reprimanding of Berry and fencer Race Imboden for their respective protesting on the medal stand at the Pan American Games that August. They were considered to be in a "probationary period" for 12 months.
But the new USOPC policy puts the body directly at odds with the International Olympic Committee, which said in April it will uphold its longstanding ban on demonstrations for political, religious or racial purposes — otherwise known as Rule 50 of the Olympic charter.
The day after clinching a spot in Tokyo, Berry posted a photo of her — left hand on hip — looking straight ahead.
"Stop playing with me," she wrote on Twitter.
Stop playing with me pic.twitter.com/WLN3clqOCM
The expectation is that Berry has some plan to demonstrate while at the Olympics.
""Sports is entertainment. But my purpose and my voice and my mission is bigger than the sport," Berry said Saturday. "So me being able to represent my communities and my people, and those who have died at the hands of police brutality, those who have died (due) to this systemic racism – I feel like that's the important part."
Contributing: Tom Schad, USA TODAY; Associated Press
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
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