Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, said Monday that athlete Gwen Berry should be removed from the U.S. Olympic team for her protest of the national anthem, arguing that supporting the country they represent should be a “bare minimum requirement” for Olympic competitors.
Berry, 31, touched off an outcry by turning her back on the American flag during “The Star-Spangled Banner” after she qualified Saturday with her third-place finish in the women’s hammer throw at the U.S. track-and-field trials.
She did not face the flag or place her hand over her heart as she stood on the podium, unlike the gold and silver medalists, and then held up a T-shirt that said “Activist Athlete.”
“We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team,” Mr. Crenshaw said on “Fox & Friends.” “The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That’s the entire point, OK?”
He drew a distinction between professional athletes who protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of games, saying that they represent their pro teams, not their country.
“It’s one thing when these NBA players do it — OK, fine, we’ll just stop watching,” he said. “But now the Olympic team? And it’s multiple cases of this. They should be removed. That should be the bare minimum requirement: that you believe in the country [you’re] representing.”
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The prospect of multiple athlete protests has thrown a potential wild card into the Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8. The games were postponed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Berry, who also competed in the 2016 Olympic Games, said afterward that she thought she had been “set up.” She said she was told that the anthem would be played before she took the podium, but USA Track and Field disputed that claim.
She took to Twitter after the congressman’s comment, tweeting, “At this point, y’all are obsessed with me.”
On Sunday, she tweeted, “I never said I hated this country! People try to put words in my mouth but they can’t. That’s why I speak out. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.”
Berry protested from the podium in 2019 after winning gold at the Pan-American Games. She raised her fist during the anthem, drawing a reprimand from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
• Andy Kostka contributed to this report.