US hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who turned away from the flag while on the podium at the Olympic trials, told CNN that she "never said that I hated the country." Berry stood third at the trials in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
During the medal ceremony, Gwen Berry turned away from the US flag while 'The Star-Spangled Banner' played. She draped a T-shirt carrying the words "activist athlete" over her head.
Berry acknowledged the criticism following her actions on social media. She told CNN, "I never said that I didn't want to go to the Olympic Games. That's why I competed and got third and made the team." She added that she never said that she hated the country. "All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people point blank, period," said the athlete.
The athlete added that there was no prior mention of the anthem being played while the athletes were on the podium.
US triple jumper Will Claye and other athletes have supported Berry.
Berry is known for raising her voice against various causes. She lost some of her sponsors in 2019 after she raised her fist to protest on the podium at the Pan American Games in Peru.
She was put on a 12-month probation from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee for the act.
She had defended her then by saying that her act was meant to highlight social injustice in America.