The White House defended the right of professional athletes to “peacefully protest” after an Olympic hammer thrower turned her back on the American flag at an award ceremony.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she had not spoken specifically to President Joe Biden about the incident, but expressed broad support for protests during the national anthem.
Biden, Psaki said, is “incredibly proud” to be an American and has “great respect” for the national anthem.
“He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments when we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals,” she continued. “And it means respecting the right of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”
Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned her back to the flag at an award ceremony during the Olympic trials in Oregon on Saturday.
Berry, who won third place in the match, raised a black T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” printed on it and draped it over her head during the anthem.
In response to the controversy, Berry said her purpose and mission were “bigger than sports” asserting she was at the Olympics to represent people who died in the United States as a consequence of “systemic racism.”
“The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has,” Berry said.