Hammer Thrower Gwen Berry Sparks Activism At U.S. Olympic Trials

While there were no noticeable podium protests at the U.S. Olympic swimming Trials, hammer thrower Gwen Berry, a Black American, protested on the podium at the U.S. track and field Olympic Trials on Saturday.

She was receiving her bronze medal on the podium from the hammer throw event, which secured her position to represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Games. Then, the national anthem began to play.

“I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said according to the New York Times. She said the anthem was supposed to play before the athletes got on the podium. Throughout the meet, the anthem had been played just once per night (as it was at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials), and Berry had been staying out of the spotlight during those moments. But a delay in playing it on Saturday meant that it wound up being played as she received her medal.

Berry turned away from the flag while the national anthem played. Towards the end, she placed her black T-shirt, which read “Activist Athlete,” over her head.

“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry said, according to the Guardian. “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.”

Berry’s protest was met with a storm of headlines and social media messages, both in an uproar and in support of her actions.

She responded to those upset over her decision yesterday on social media:

George Floyd was a Black American who was killed by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes last year. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in April.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) released protest guidelines for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Trials  in March.

Berry’s actions fall within the USOPC’s protest guidelines which reference the podium and the national anthem, explicitly saying kneeling during it is permitted. Most of the impermissible actions provided by the USOPC include hate speech or violence.

Permitted actions in the USOPC’s “Racial & Social Justice Demonstrations,” area are defined as: “A Demonstration, which does not include any Impermissible Elements, that is explicitly aimed at (1) advancing racial and social justice; or (2) promoting the human dignity of individuals or groups that have historically been underrepresented, minoritized, or marginalized in their respective societal context.”

Among the permitted actions are:

  • Wearing a hat or face mask with phrases such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘Trans Lives Matter’ or words such ‘equality,’ ‘justice,’ ‘peace,’ ‘respect,’ ‘solidarity,’ or ‘inclusion.’
  • Orally advocating for equity/equal rights for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals,
  • Holding up one’s fist at the start line or on the podium.
  • Kneeling on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem.
  • Advocating for equal treatment of underrepresented, marginalized, or minoritized groups around the world, or against systemic barriers to such equal treatment.
  • Advocating for communities free from police violence, or against systemic police discrimination against Black individuals or other marginalized populations.

You can read more about the USOPC protest rules for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Trials here and for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games here.

Berry has had a history of activism on the international stage. She raised her fist during the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima after winning gold. 

At the time, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter stated “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” 

She was issued a 12-month probationary period meaning she could have faced more serious sanctions for further breaches of the USOPC code of conduct. This cost Berry multiple sponsors and about two-thirds of her income, she told NBC Sports at the time.

In December 2020, The Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice recommended that the USOPC end its prohibition of the peaceful protest of athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

In response, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland declared the USOPC will not sanction athletes for their protests as long as they follow the USOPC guidelines.

The USOPC Athlete Advisory Committee (AAC) has also been an avid supporter of athletes’ right to peacefully protest. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin, a member of the AAC, released a video on the subject in April saying:

“Are you to be atop that podium, and those moments, for those few moments, you will lead your country. You wanna take a knee? Lead us by taking a knee. You wanna raise a fist? Lead us by raising a fist. You wanna cry tears of joy? Lead us with your tears.

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ZH
26 days ago

If you are going to protest “anything” at the Olympics first thing is you better be wearing an armband, pin, hat, anything with the number 11 on it.

If you aren’t sure what I am talking about go to olympicchoices.com

The Kraken
Reply to  ZH
26 days ago

Yeah I’d stay out of this one ZH, have you ever heard the phrase “read the room”?

ZH
Reply to  ZH
26 days ago

20 negatives, wow does anyone who clicked on that know what I was referring to?

swimapologist
Reply to  ZH
26 days ago

Yes Zach, everyone knows what you’re referring too. As long as I’ve known you, though, you’ve always struggled with one thing: understanding that not everything is about you and what you’re most concerned about.

The downvotes are because you’re trying to take one issue and saying that “no that’s not important, my issue is more important, she shouldn’t protest what’s happened to Black people, she should protest what’s happened to my people.”

ZH
Reply to  swimapologist
25 days ago

“as long as you’ve known me” wow that’s loaded. I don’t agree with you that everyone knows what I am referring to, it would be great but I doubt it. As to your other comment you can find my thoughts on Twitter. Her comments are important if one agrees with her or not. I fully support anyone speaking their mind, following their passions, however I don’t think the Olympics Games are the venue and certainly not during a medal ceremony. I am certainly not a fan of selective umbrage.

Sun Yangs Hammer
26 days ago

Funny enough, I know someone else who is pretty good with a hammer

Sun Yang's Samples
Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
26 days ago

Don’t you dare

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
26 days ago

once sun yang realises he is washed up in the pool by 2024 he’ll turn to athletics and smash the hammer throw wr

Hswimmer
26 days ago

Just madness, if you don’t like this country, leave. It’s that easy.

Daaaave
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Or, if you love the country enough to expect that it can live up to the high aspirations it set out to achieve, you can insist we strive for our greatest potential. And peacefully exercise your constitutional right to do so.

Leaving is a strategy for people with nothing invested. What have you invested in US prosperity? Or have you just cashed your dividend?

Hswimmer
Reply to  Daaaave
26 days ago

LOL. Your right to not follow your countries national anthem? That literally makes no sense…

Daaaave
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Honest question: what instructions are in the National Anthem? And am I obligated by law to follow them? No.

I can appreciate the National Anthem (I choose to stand with hand over heart, but respect others’ wishes to do otherwise, because, you know, free speech), but I think it is mostly Francis Scott Keys’ observations of the battle at Fort McHenry in 1812 rather than any sort of marching orders.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Daaaave
26 days ago

You should want to represent your country in the best way possible at an Olympics no matter what..

Daaaave
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

You and I literally agree on that.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Daaaave
26 days ago

How is kneeling or not being on the podium respecting your country though?

Daaaave
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

H, this is a fair question and not one that is easy to debate in a message thread.

I believe Olympians (and other elite athletes) who make statements on the podium (kneel, fist in the air, etc.) respect their country as much as any citizen, arguably more so. I can’t think of any athlete who has made a statement that they are ungrateful for what they have had access to.

But you can respect something and want it to be better–if you respect something you SHOULD want it to be better (coaches in this community might relate).

I tend to view podium protests as “that person wants the thing they love to be better” rather than “they want to… Read more »

ACC
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Kneeling for the anthem was literally a Green Beret’s idea.

“And, you know, people – in my opinions and in my experience, kneeling’s never been in our history really seen as a disrespectful act. I mean, people kneel when they get knighted. You kneel to propose to your wife, and you take a knee to pray. And soldiers often take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave to pay respects.” -Nate Boyer (Retired Green Beret)

Last edited 26 days ago by ACC
John
Reply to  Hswimmer
25 days ago

Since when is disagreeing with someone or something disrespecting them or it?

Coach
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

At the same time, this country has used Olympians to make political statements during boycotts. I may not agree with her, but it’s odd that the government can use our athletes to make political statements, but people get upset when athletes do the same thing.

ACC
Reply to  Coach
26 days ago

The difference being the government isn’t Black.

DrSwimPhil
Reply to  Coach
26 days ago

I’m not old enough to remember that period, but….wasn’t that move by the government roundly criticized and a lot of people got upset by it, too? Arguably more so than any of these recent Olympic-level individual protests?

Corn Pop
Reply to  DrSwimPhil
26 days ago

May I.remind you that some months after the US invaded Afghanistan, the US held an Olympics in 2002? .

Last edited 26 days ago by Corn Pop
oxyswim
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

I’m betting you’d be happy if a Saudi athlete condemned their human rights abuses at the Olympics.

Corn Pop
Reply to  oxyswim
26 days ago

Some interesting verifications recently . The crew that butchered Kashoggi in the KSA embassy in Istanbul was trained in Arkansas by a govt approved outfit.

This is why DJT was honest enough not to OMG ! . Plenty who knew blurted fake outrage so its a good idea to revisit who they are . If they did that, they will do it again.

Note it was Putin who went over to the isolated Saudi Prince & shook his hand at the G20 like we all know dude , best to train your own assassinators. Then the Prince was back in the fold.

We all really love American human rights theatrics . More please .

Comet
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

She is free not to go to Tokyo if she doesn’t want to.

Personal Best
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Of course it does.
Do you honestly believe every national anthem represents a nation’s values and all its people?

For reference the Australian national anthem was recently officially modified to be more inclusive of the First Nations’ People because it previously erased them completely. Would it not have been right for them to protest before the change if they so chose?

Swim Mom
Reply to  Daaaave
26 days ago

The anthem, the flag all come with the win. If you don’t want that then don’t compete. So you are right she does not have to leave. Go be an activist

SwimMom
Reply to  Swim Mom
26 days ago

Unless you have lived her experience, I don’t know that we have the right to tell her what she should and shouldn’t do.

Swim Mom
Reply to  SwimMom
24 days ago

To assume I have not

oxyswim
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Telling someone who’s ancestors were likely brought here in the slave trade, after their wealth was stolen, to just leave this country is so ignorant.

Hswimmer
Reply to  oxyswim
26 days ago

If you don’t love it, why stay?

ACC
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Because you were born here and you have just as much a right to want it to change as the people who want it to stay the same as when they were born?

Hswimmer
Reply to  ACC
26 days ago

Ok but what is kneeling doing?

owlmundo
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

expresses ones sorrow/disappointment with how the establishment handled whatever the athlete is addressing. or would you rather people stay silent in the face of what they think is wrong? free speech barring criticism?? as someone said earlier”I’m betting you’d be happy if a Saudi athlete condemned their human rights abuses at the Olympics.” but not here i guess :/

SwimMom
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

Triggering some folks, exposing racist comments… and drawing attention to the issue.

SwimMom
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

To try and change things… why is that hard to understand.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  oxyswim
26 days ago

“Love it or leave it” is the epitome of ignorance. You can instantly evaluate that person’s character and belief system…and never be wrong

Caeleb’s left suit string
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”—James Baldwin. If you truly love your country, you’ll jump at the opportunity to change it to become even better.

Sub13
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

It’s interesting how the “if you don’t like your country you should just leave” crowd is almost a perfect correlation with the “we need strict borders” crowd.

Like, do you want people to be able to leave their country and enter other countries easily or not? Do you have any idea how immigration works?

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Sub13
26 days ago

It is also a perfect correlation to the crowd who love being lied to as long as those lies align with their biases and fears, and perfect correlation to the crowd who desperately interpret a violent insurrection as really the other side in disguise

Not Tapered
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
26 days ago

Back on the insurrection? Portland is still on fire if we are going there.

Alex Dragovich
Reply to  Not Tapered
26 days ago

False equivalence, if you’re going THERE

SwimMom
Reply to  Alex Dragovich
26 days ago

Both Portland and the insurrection were awful… but agree not equivalent. One encouraged by the president’s temper tantrums and an attack on the symbols of our democracy.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Not Tapered
26 days ago

Maybe they took a flight to DC to block the entrances to the WH because we need to add more “infrastructure” since we are flush with cash?

Last edited 26 days ago by Justin Thompson
HJones
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
26 days ago

You mean the summer of violent BLM insurrections that destroyed a few cities?

Hillbilly
Reply to  HJones
26 days ago

BLM was a worldwide movement that encompassed over 50 countries, so if you and all the other fox news parrots are right about BLM, shouldn’t 25% of the world’s countries be unrecognizable hellscapes?

SwimmerNotSwammer
Reply to  Hillbilly
26 days ago

hahaha omg dragged

SwimMom
Reply to  HJones
26 days ago

Racism lives on.

Personal Best
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

This is such an ignorant comment.
Leaving the country is nothing short of an acknowledgement that she will never have the same rights or respect as other people in her own country.

It’s turning a blind eye to any injustices that she and her community have faced and acknowledging that they won’t change. It’s saying “it’s OK for my country to mistreat me and others and it’s ok for it to stay the same. I don’t belong here”.

Should she leave her home because others have discriminated against her?

highswimcoach
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

ohh…many a people have told Donald Trump to leave haha

Justin Thompson
Reply to  highswimcoach
26 days ago

I think the difference is the squad isn’t talking about a few adjustments, but rather make this out to be the worst place on the planet.

Hillbilly
Reply to  Hswimmer
26 days ago

It is more patriotic to notice the flaws in your country and want better for it than to ignorantly claim it’s great and disregard major problems that need fixing.

Dave
Reply to  Hillbilly
26 days ago

False equivalency. There’s a difference between “noticing the flaws and wanting it to be better” and being so disgusted by your country that hearing the national anthem as you stand on a podium fills you with rage.

Hillbilly
Reply to  Dave
24 days ago

Nobody protesting the anthem is “filled with rage” The ones who are filled with rage are the fake Patriots who get so offended when someone of color tells them this country isn’t the utopia they think it is.

Huh
Reply to  Hillbilly
26 days ago

Such a terrible false equivalency.

jdsmitty1
Reply to  Hswimmer
25 days ago

no <3

Bevo
26 days ago

She’s right, it is a setup. She’s being setup with transportation, equipment, coaching, housing, training, food, clothing, uniforms, facilities, teammates, and probably a little per diem.

Daaaave
Reply to  Bevo
26 days ago

If you are American, you have that setup as well. Is it an inheritance or something you have invested in to earn a return? What have you achieved with your dividend?

A$AP Pocky
26 days ago

Look I understand. Activism in sports is not a surprise. But to call it a set-up? When has the national anthem not been played at a major sporting event where individual awards are given?

ACC
Reply to  A$AP Pocky
26 days ago

It’s a national competition, not international, so the national anthem is only being played at the beginning of the competition. They only play the national anthem for awards at international competitions.

Last edited 26 days ago by ACC
oxyswim
Reply to  A$AP Pocky
26 days ago

They had not been playing the national anthem during medal ceremonies. They had been playing it once per day of competition. It just so happened that the one time they play it that day was during her medal ceremony when should could not stay in a back area. It was either intentional or an incredible coincidence.

Sub13
Reply to  A$AP Pocky
26 days ago

This event. This is when. They literally were not playing the anthem during medal ceremonies. Apparently the anthem was scheduled for six minutes prior but was late for unknown reasons and just happened to coincide with the medal ceremony.

A$AP Pocky
Reply to  A$AP Pocky
26 days ago

Thanks for clearing up that misconception chat! Regardless of my thoughts on the subject, I can see now why it’s a bit “set-upish”.

Mediocre Swammer
Reply to  A$AP Pocky
26 days ago

Yeah, I really wish this information were in the article. I read it elsewhere, and was disappointed not to see that clarification here.

Gator
26 days ago

Gwen got third at trials.

Hot Diggity Dog
Reply to  Gator
26 days ago

In a sport I’ve never even heard of til just now

swimapologist
Reply to  Hot Diggity Dog
26 days ago

That’s a real “glass houses” statement broo, on a swimming website.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  swimapologist
26 days ago

Exactly. I mention swimming elsewhere and they tell me to shut up and discuss something important

Not Tapered
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
26 days ago

There’s a time and place for both.

swim2
Reply to  swimapologist
26 days ago

swim is the only sport that matters, none else, all others are games for children

Yozhik
26 days ago

If you want to represent the Nation at Olympic Games then be respectful to the attributes that represent the Nation. Stand when the Anthem is playing and look at the Nation’s flag rising. If you disregard all these then go compete at community park and express your feelings and relationship to your Nation any way you want. It’s your civil right and nobody takes it away from you.

Last edited 26 days ago by Yozhik
Sub13
Reply to  Yozhik
26 days ago

“You have a right to express yourself, but if you do then you can’t play your sport at the only level anyone cares about and the only level you can possibly make any money out of it”

SwimMom
Reply to  Yozhik
26 days ago

Because you said so? The people that wrote the rules say otherwise.

Penguin
26 days ago

The only thing Im mad about is we dont get to take 3 swimmers per event…..

Gator
Reply to  Penguin
26 days ago

We only take the best. Gwen is not one of those unfortunately

Admin
Reply to  Gator
26 days ago

Gwen Berry is qualified for the US Olympic Team.

Hot Diggity Dog
Reply to  Penguin
26 days ago

Ya let’s give ryan held a spot and replace the third place hammer thrower

Hswimmer
Reply to  Hot Diggity Dog
26 days ago

Right

Chad
Reply to  Hot Diggity Dog
26 days ago

I wish we could just give Ryan Held a spot. No need to replace the hammer thrower.

Last edited 26 days ago by Chad