Two Republican lawmakers call for Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry to be removed from the Olympic roster for turning her back on the U.S. flag during the national anthem over the weekend.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) both made similar comments about Berry’s decision to turn away from the U.S. flag and cover her head with a black T-shirt that read “Activist Athlete” during the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon on June 26, the Washington Examiner reported.
“I don’t think it’s too much, when athletes are competing to wear the Stars and Stripes, to compete under the Stars and Stripes in the Olympics, for them to simply honor that flag and our anthem on the medal stand,” the Arkansas Republican and former Army infantry officer told Fox News on Monday, June 28. “If Ms. Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there’s no reason she needs to compete for our country. She should be removed from the Olympic team.”
Berry, who came in third place, has promised to speak out against social justice concerns in the U.S. throughout the Olympics.
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry said. “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.”
Cotton’s criticism was mirrored by a number of other notable conservatives, including military veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who called for Berry’s removal from the Olympic squad.
“We don’t need any more activist athletes,” Crenshaw said during an interview with Fox News on Monday.
“The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That’s the entire point, OK?” Crenshaw said. “It’s one thing when these NBA players do it [protest during the anthem]. OK, fine, we’ll just stop watching. 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.”
Both senators have prior military experience, with Crenshaw having served as a Navy SEAL and Cotton having served in the Army as a Ranger-qualified member.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration supported Berry’s decision to protest “systemic racism” in the U.S. by turning her back on the American flag.
“[Biden] is incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents … he would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the Constitution, to peacefully protest,” Psaki said.
Saturday’s protest was not the first time Berry has utilized her position as a U.S. Olympic athlete as a platform for her activism.
In 2019, after raising her fist while standing on the podium at the Pan American Games, she was given a 12-month suspension, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee noted in a statement at the time.