Olympian Gwen Berry Says It's 'Obvious' Parts of National Anthem Are About Slavery

U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry said on Tuesday that it's "obvious" parts of The Star-Spangled Banner are about slavery.

Berry, who recently made headlines for turning away from the U.S. flag while standing on the podium after she received a bronze medal and sealed her spot on the Olympic team heading to Tokyo, was asked why the national anthem made her so uncomfortable.

"History. If you know your history, you'd know the full song of the national anthem. The third paragraph speaks to slaves in America, our blood being slain...all over the floor," Berry said while appearing on the Black News Channel. "It's disrespectful and it does not speak for Black Americans. It's obvious, there's no question."

While the first paragraph of the anthem is familiar to most, the third paragraph includes lines such as "Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution," "No refuge could save the hireling and slave," and "From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave."

According to the New York Times, the third paragraph of the anthem was often left out of sheet music publications in the 20th century.

On Saturday, after earning her spot on the U.S. Olympic team traveling to Tokyo, Berry turned away from the U.S. flag during the national anthem and, as the song ended, she placed a black T-shirt over her head that read, "Activist Athlete."

While appearing on the Black News Channel, Berry said that she felt "set up" regarding the timing of the anthem. She explained that she was never told the anthem would be played while she was on the podium.

Despite Berry's belief that the timing of the anthem was a coincidence, USA Track and Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said on Saturday that "the national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m."

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

During her interview with the Black News Channel on Tuesday, Berry also spoke about the criticism she faced from many after turning away from the flag. Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas said that Berry "should be removed from the team," while Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said, "If Ms. Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there's no reason she needs to compete for our country."

While speaking with the Black News Channel, Berry said, "I never said that I didn't want to go to the Olympic Games. I never said that I hated the country. I never said that.

"All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them."

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Gwen Berry
U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry said it's "obvious" parts of the national anthem are about slavery. On Saturday, Berry took third place in the hammer throw at the Olympic trials and turned away from U.S. flag while The Star-Spangled Banner played. Patrick Smith/Getty