Gwen Berry is a patriot.
The whiny-ass petulant terrorists who tried to overthrow the government and kill former Vice President Mike Pence and other elected officials, because they lost an election that was rigged in their favor through voter suppression, are not.
On Saturday, Berry became a two-time Olympian, as she will represent her country at the Tokyo Games in a few weeks in the hammer throw. However, no one is talking about that right now. If you Google the term “national anthem,” you’ll see that every article listed under “top stories” features Berry. Olympic hammer throwers don’t usually dominate conversations like this, as the sport has never been a marquee event of the Summer Games. But when the story involves an unapologetic Black woman turning away from the American flag on the podium, it becomes breaking news. As the anthem played — something USA Track and Field told Reuters was played at the trials on a pre-arranged schedule — Berry turned to face the stands, not the flag. Berry even put a shirt over her head that read “activist athlete.” She feels like the anthem’s cue was intentional. The powers that be say it was just a coincidence.
“I feel like it was a setup,” Berry explained about how the anthem was played while she happened to be on the podium. “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest. 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.”
People are pissed. And when I say people, I mean the racist white kind.
“I really don’t want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem don’t speak for me. It never has,” said Berry.
Successful and bold Black people like Berry continue to gnaw at the hearts of the homegrown terrorists who attacked the Capitol earlier this year, but also the ones who stayed home, secretly funding and organizing it. Because when a dark-skinned Black woman who stands close to 6 feet tall, with a powerful physique and natural hair, basically says “f*ck that song” to a tune with a verse glorifying slavery, it gets Republicans and other conservatives pretty upset.
But not as upset as they still should be about what happened in January.
“There were some rioters, and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie,” said Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde last month of the failed coup that left five dead, including a Capitol police officer, and 140 cops injured.
“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures,” Clyde explained. “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
When Kevin Seefried was photographed carrying the Confederate Flag inside the Capitol, people were outraged. Yet some of those same people are outraged at Berry, even though she’s about to go represent America at a global sporting event, during a pandemic, when her country continues to assert that her life doesn’t matter.
“It’s really important for me and my community just to be able to represent,” Berry explained. “I think sports is a distraction. Sports is entertainment. But my purpose and my voice and mission is bigger than the sport. 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 to this systemic racism, I feel like that’s the important part. That’s why I’m going. And that’s why I was here today.”
Two years ago, Berry raised her fist when she took the podium after winning gold at the 2019 Pan American Games. It caused a stir and sanctions were put in play, but in March the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee gave athletes the OK to kneel or raise their fists. The IOC is still planning to ban such gestures, though.
That means all eyes will be on Berry if she makes it to the podium in Tokyo. She hasn’t decided on anything yet. “When I get there, I’ll figure out something to do,” she said.
I’ll be cheering for Gwen Berry more than any other single athlete in Tokyo. I hope she takes the podium to protest in a way we’ve never seen before. And if she does, and all hell breaks loose, do me one favor. Start a conversation or tweet at someone that’s upset and ask them one question: Was your face this red in January?
Didn’t think so.