An image of hammer thrower Gwen Berry turning away from the American flag while on the podium went viral over the weekend.
Berry hit the podium during the US Olympic track and field trials, but she faced the stands while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played during the medal ceremony.
Berry, who was also wearing a t-shirt with the words “activist athlete” emblazoned across, placed third in the hammer event at the trials, earning a coveted place on the US team for the Tokyo Olympics.
She received backlash from the usual crowd, outraged that she took the opportunity to make a stand against systematic racism.
Berry says that was not the case.
“I feel like it was set up. I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was p*ssed, to be honest,” said Berry via ESPN. “I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be alright. I see what’s up,” she said.
She says that despite the mix-up, the anthem has never spoken for her.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” said Berry, according to ESPN. “But I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”
In 2019, Berry lost several endorsements and received 12-month probation after she raised her fist in protest on the podium at the Pan American Games in Peru.
For 2021, the International Olympic Committee has barred that barred protests at the Tokyo games. Clothing displaying phrases like “Black Lives Matter,” or depicting kneeling and raising a fist, is also banned from the upcoming Olympics.
USA Track and Field (USATF) seemed to back up Berry’s story.
“We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards,” said USATF spokeswoman Susan Hazzard per Reuters. “We’re thrilled with the women’s hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games.”