The White House expressed President Joe Biden's support for the national anthem while also backing athlete protests during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Biden's position after Gwen Berry, a black hammer thrower, demonstrated against the anthem while standing on the medal dais this week at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Though Psaki had not spoken to Biden about Berry, she said the president was "incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world."
"He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country is recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven't lived up to our highest ideals," she added. "And it means respecting the right of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest."
Berry turned to the crowd rather than the flag as the anthem played in Oregon on Saturday after she finished third to qualify for the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. She also held her ceremonial flowers by her side, going on to cover her head with a T-shirt that read “Activist Athlete.”
The U.S. Olympics and Paralympic Committee previously put Berry on probation for one year after she demonstrated during the anthem at the 2019 Pan-American Games in Peru. The body went on to apologize for reprimanding her.
Berry was adamant Saturday's ceremony was "a setup" since she claimed organizers told her "the anthem would be played before we walked out."
"They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,” she said. “I was thinking about what I should do. Eventually, I stayed there, and I swayed. I put my shirt over my head.”
USA Track & Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard pushed back on the allegation, insisting the anthem was played per a schedule.
“We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards," Hazzard said. "The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule."
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Original Author: Naomi Lim