President Joe Biden is said to "respect" Gwen Berry's right to turn away from the U.S flag during the Olympic trials at the weekend.
The Olympic trials over the weekend saw Berry place third in her hammer throwing event. But the thirty-one-year-old sparked controversy after she turned her back on the American flag while the national anthem played.
While fellow competitors faced the flag, Berry turned towards the stands. Nearing the end of the song, she even lifted up a black T-shirt with the words "activist athlete."
Berry claimed the timing of the national anthem was a "set up" in an interview with the Associated Press.
"They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there," she said, "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."
Her move has been heavily slammed by many, including Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw and outspoken journalist Piers Morgan. Senator Tom Cotton even called for Berry to kick off the U.S Olympic team.
In an interview with Fox News, Cotton said: "I don't think it's too much when athletes are competing to wear the Stars and Stripes — to compete under the Stars and Stripes in the Olympics — for them to simply honor that flag and our anthem on the medal stand. If Ms. Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there's no reason she needs to compete for our country. She should be removed from the Olympic team."
If Gwen Berry is so embarrassed by America, then there's no reason she needs to compete for our country at the Olympics. pic.twitter.com/8OeXVOPqVd
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) June 29, 2021
Despite the criticism Berry has received, it seems her decision is respected by the president.
The situation was addressed by White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed during the daily briefing at the beginning of the week. Psaki was questioned whether Biden thinks Berry's behavior was "appropriate."
"I haven't spoken to the president specifically about this, but I know he's incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world," Psaki responded.
Psaki also noted that the president would recognize there are time where we "haven't lived up to our highest ideals."
"He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we are — as a country, haven't lived up to our highest ideals. And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest."