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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called Monday for US Olympic track and field athlete Gwen Berry to be kicked off the squad after she turned her back on the American flag while the national anthem was played over the weekend at the Olympic trials in Oregon.
“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,” Cotton, a former Army infantry officer, told “Fox News Primetime”. “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.”
Cotton’s remarks echoed those of Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), a former Navy SEAL, who told “Fox & Friends” Monday that Berry should not travel to Tokyo for next month’s Games.
“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.”
Crenshaw added that Berry’s actions were part of what he called the “pathology that occurs when we’re teaching critical race theory in our institutions.
“Critical race theory, again, basically teaches that our institutions are racist, that our systems are deeply racist, that you can’t see the racism, because it’s subtle, and if you deny it, it’s because of your white fragility. But you’re teaching people this constantly, and this is what it results in. It results in these displays of hatred towards our own country, and it’s gotta stop.”
Berry qualified for the Olympics by placing third in the hammer throw Saturday, behind DeAnna Price (who set a new American record with her throw) and Brooke Andersen. Berry soon stole the spotlight from her teammates during the medal ceremony by turning to face the stands while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was being played, then held up a black t-shirt that read, “Activist Athlete.”
Berry later told reporters that she felt the playing of the anthem during her medal ceremony “was a setup” and done “on purpose” because she was put on probation for raising her fist during the Pan-American Games in Peru in August 2019.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” Berry told reporters. “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.”
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry added. “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.”
A USA Track and Field spokesman insisted the song was played according to a previously published schedule (Unlike at the Olympic Games, the national anthem is not played after each event at the trials, but rather played once per day).
Berry defended herself Sunday and Monday against social media backlash to her actions, at one point responding to a video of Crenshaw’s remarks by tweeting, “At this point, y’all are obsessed with me.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Berry on Monday, telling reporters that while President Biden’s “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.”
Berry previously competed in the hammer throw at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she failed to qualify for the medal round.
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