Gwen Berry and her anthem protest at the Olympic Trials started a firestorm of debate. And former college football star and Army Ranger Jake Bequette didn’t approve.
During an interview on Fox News, Bequette said: “I was very blessed to be able to play football for the University of Arkansas and for the New England Patriots. And standing there on the sideline before a game watching that flag wave and the national anthem play always filled me with pride.
“And wearing that flag on my shoulder serving in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division was the greatest honor of my life.”
Gwen Berry finished third, Saturday, in the women’s hammer throw at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. The top three earn trips to the Olympics. So Berry qualified for her second Olympics. She finished 14th at the 2016 Rio Games.
But it was her behavior after the event finished that caused such controversy. The Trials played the national anthem once a day. And, coincidentally, the anthem came on as the hammer throwers were being honored.
Gwen Berry Is a Self-Described ‘Activist Athlete’
Gwen Berry describes herself as an “activist athlete.” She protested when she won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in 2019. As the anthem played, Berry raised her fist in the air. The U.S. Olympic Committee placed Berry on a year-long probation. However, the USOC tweaked its rules in March and will allow athletes to kneel or raise their fists as a form of protest.
At least two high-ranking Republicans called for The USOC to cut Gwen Berry from its team. They were U.S. Sen Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Congressman Dan Crenshaw (Texas).
Jake Bequette also was interviewed about Gwen Berry. He has a unique prospective because of what he did after he finished his pro football career.
Bequette was a star defensive end for the Arkansas Razorbacks. And the New England Patriots selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft. Bequette, like Gwen Berry, is 32. Bequette played only 43 snaps scattered over eight games from 2012-14. When he left football, he enlisted in the Army in 2017. He did a five-month tour in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division.
“I’ve always admired people who have served in the military,” Bequette told The Athletic. “I’ve always been a student of history. I didn’t want to look back on my life and not have military service as part of it. It was kind of now or never as far as active service. I’m very glad with the way things worked out. I feel very blessed to have been able to have a great football career, then also be out, be young enough and be healthy enough to have an Army career.”
Berry Is Critical of Third Verse of Anthem
Gwen Berry comes from a military background. Her dad served in Iraq. In an interview after the Trials, she said:
‘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. I never said that I hated the country. … All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand for or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people. Point blank, period.’
Gwen Berry said she has a problem with the third verse of the Star Spangled Banner, which mentions slavery.