Hammer thrower Gwen Berry has hit back at Caitlyn Jenner’s criticism of her protest at June’s U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
After winning a bronze medal and securing her place at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, 31-year-old Berry was on the podium when “The Star-Spangled Banner” started playing. She then turned away from the flag to face the stands. She later placed a black T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” over her head.
Asked about the protest during an appearance on Newsmax, Jenner—who won the decathlon event at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal—called it “disgusting.” The reality television star and California gubernatorial candidate also told Berry to “stay out of politics” and to refrain from using the Olympic stage “for your own political gain.”
In a new interview days before the Games open, Berry responded to Jenner’s comments, saying her mission is not political.
“I say Caitlyn Jenner does not know how it feels to be a Black person in America who’s representing a country [that] has literally done nothing for Black people in America,” Berry told KSDK News.
“She needs to do her research and understand the history in America before she says anything like that,” Berry said.
In the interview, Berry also elaborated on previous comments she had made about the timing of the national anthem being a “set up.”
She said she had been informed before going out to the podium that athletes would be introduced to the crowd either before or after the playing on the national anthem.
“That’s what they’ve done the whole trials,” Berry said. But as soon as she got onto the podium with winner DeAnna Price, and second-place finisher Brooke Andersen, the anthem started playing, according to Berry.
She believes the timing was not a coincidence, but a bid by organizers to generate attention ahead of the Olympics.
“They’ve risked so much money for these Olympic Games, and it’s not enough talk because no one can go,” she said. “So of course, what do you do to get the media going? You create controversy.”
Berry’s protest immediately sparked a backlash. She said she and her family have received that and some people have even showed up at her house and at her son’s school.
But she said it wouldn’t stop her from continuing to protest racial injustice.
“My people built this country. I am an American, so I can stand out and speak out for what I believe in because it is my constitutional right,” Berry said.
Berry, Jenner and USA Track and Field have been contacted for additional comment.