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Why track and field star Gwen Berry turned from the flag during anthem at trials

"I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,'' she said.
2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials - Day 9
Gwen Berry, left, turns away from U.S. flag during the national anthem after the women's hammer throw final at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Oregon on Saturday.Patrick Smith / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Track and field athlete Gwen Berry created controversy when she turned away from the American flag as the national anthem played while she stood on the podium receiving a bronze medal in the hammer throw Saturday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Berry, an outspoken activist who was placed on probation in 2019 for raising a fist during a medal ceremony during the 2019 Pan American Games, faced the stands instead of the flag as the song played before draping her head in a shirt that had "Activist Athlete” written on it.

Berry covered her head with a shirt that said "Activist Athlete.”Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Berry, 31, said she believes the anthem was intentionally played to coincide with her actions.

"I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,'' she said, according to ESPN. "I was pissed, to be honest.''

In March, the U.S. Olympic Committee outlines specific demonstrations that are allowed, but turning your back on the flag is not among them.

DeAnna Price took gold, while Brooke Andersen got silver.

A USA Track and Field spokeswoman told ESPN the anthem was scheduled to be played each day at a set time.

"We didn't wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards," spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said. "The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.''

Berry said, "They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there."

"But I don't really want to talk about the anthem because that's not important. The anthem doesn't speak for me. It never has.''

Berry, who competed in the 2016 Olympics, but did not medal, also didn't back down while addressing what happened on her Instagram page.

“I said what I said... I meant what I said..STOP PLAYING WITH ME!! PERIOD!” she captioned a quartet of pictures of the moment.

Berry will be going to the Tokyo Olympics and hopes to raise awareness for what she believes is a bigger issue than athletics.

"My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,'' she said. "I'm here to represent those ... who died due to systemic racism. That's the important part. That's why I'm going. That's why I'm here today.''

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