White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday defended Olympian Gwen Berry after the hammer-thrower turned her back on the flag following her performance at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Saturday.
At a press conference, Psaki told reporters that while President Joe Biden respects the flag and national anthem, he believes part of being a patriotic American means recognizing the sins committed in America’s past and respecting the right of Americans to protest those wrongs.
The question came from Fox News’ Peter Doocy, film of which was tweeted by Townhall.
“Does President Biden think that is appropriate behavior for someone who hopes to represent Team USA?” Doocy asked about Berry’s back-turn.
“I haven’t spoken to the President specifically about this but I know he’s incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world,” Psaki said.
“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 constitutional, to peaceably protest.”
Berry had promised to use her position to keep raising awareness about social injustices.
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry said, the Associated Press reported. “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.”
Unlike the Olympics, anthems aren’t played to accompany medal ceremonies at the trials. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” Berry said, the AP reported. “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.”
Two summers ago, she raised her fist on the podium after winning the Pan-Am Games, which led to a sanction but ultimately pushed the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to commit to not punishing athletes who raise fists or kneel at the trials or in Tokyo.
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