White House defends Olympian Gwen Berry's right to "peacefully protest"

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Press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing Monday that the White House affirms Olympian Gwen Berry's right to "peacefully protest" when asked by a reporter whether President Biden considered her actions over the weekend "appropriate."

Driving the news: After receiving her bronze medal in the hammer throw during Saturday's U.S. Olympic track and field trials, Berry turned her back while the national anthem was played, per NBC News.

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  • Berry also held up a black t-shirt over her head with the words "activist athlete" written across the front.

  • Berry later said she felt the playing of the anthem had been a "set up," as she'd been assured the anthem would be played before the athletes stood on the podiums, according to NBC News.

  • A USA Track and Field spokesperson said they "didn't wait [to play the anthem] until athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards," per AP.

  • Berry's actions sparked controversy on social media.

Berry previously vowed to use her platform to raise awareness of social injustices in the U.S., per AP.

  • "My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” Berry said, according to AP. “I’m here to represent those ... who died due to systemic racism.

The big picture: Psaki said that she hadn't spoken to Biden specifically about Berry's case but noted that the president is "incredibly proud to be an American."

  • "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 in the Constitution, to peacefully protest," she added.

Go deeper: Taking a knee, other protests still banned at Tokyo Olympics

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