Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, said Monday that U.S. Olympic athlete Gwen Berry should be removed from the team for her national-anthem protest, arguing that supporting the country they represent should be a “bare minimum requirement” for Olympic competitors.
Ms. 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 heart as she stood on the podium, unlike the gold and silver medalists, 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,” said Mr. Crenshaw 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.”
The prospect of multiple athlete protests has thrown a potential wild card into the Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8, which were postponed a year for the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Berry, who also competed in the 2016 Olympic Games, said afterward that she thought she had been “set up,” arguing that she had been told the anthem would be played before she took the podium, which USA Track and Field has disputed.
She took to Twitter after the congressman’s comment, tweeting, “At this point, y’all are obsessed with me.”
On Sunday, she tweeted that “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 has protested from the podium before. In 2019, when she won gold at the Pan-American Games, she raised her first during the anthem, drawing a reprimand from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
At this point, y’all are obsessed with me https://t.co/HBWCE28s7x
— Gwen Berry OLY (@MzBerryThrows) June 28, 2021
• Andy Kostka contributed to this story.