United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to Olympic thrower Gwen Berry – who is currently serving a 12-month probation for raising her fist on the podium at 2019 Pan Ams – on a call Wednesday after a letter issued to Team USA athletes this week said that the USOPC “stands with those who demand equality and [wants] to work in pursuit of that goal.”
Berry and Olympic fencer Race Imboden were reprimanded in a letter from Hirshland and put on probation last August after their demonstrations. Berry told NBC Sports that she lost two-thirds of her income and was dropped by some sponsors in the wake of the event.
So when the USOPC sent a letter to athletes this week, in the wake of the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd and ensuing national protests, Berry demanded an apology on Twitter.
I want an apology letter .. mailed .. just like you and the IOC MAILED ME WHEN YOU PUT ME ON PROBATION.. stop playing with me https://t.co/qCWGINHg8M
— Gwen Berry (@MzBerryThrows) June 2, 2020
Hirshland, Berry, USA Track & Field CEO Max Siegel and other USATF officials spoke on a 40-minute call Wednesday, according to NBC. Berry said that Hirshland apologized “for not understanding the severity of the impact her decisions had on [her].”
“I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,” Hirshland said in a statement. “I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”
“We came to some good conclusions,” Berry said. “The most important thing were figuring out ways to move forward. [Hirshland] was aware of things that she did and how she made me feel about the situation, and I was happy that I was able to express to her my grievances and she was able to express to me how she felt as well about the situation.”
Berry added that her probation was not discussed, but that USATF “has always been on her side,” NBC reported.
“The conversation was more for awareness purposes, and we’ll probably have more conversations this week,” Berry said.