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Opinion: I disagree with Gwen Berry, but support her right to protest

EUGENE, OREGON - JUNE 26: Gwendolyn Berry (L), third place, looks on during the playing of the national anthem with DeAnna Price (C), first place, and Brooke Andersen, second place, on the podium after the Women's Hammer Throw final on day nine of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 26, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry took third place in the U.S. Track and Field Trials. She qualified for the Olympics; but, as she was standing on the podium and the national anthem started playing, she turned her back to the flag and covered her face with a t-shirt that said, “Activist Athlete”.

“We don’t need anymore activist athletes,” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas (R) on Fox News Channel. “She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. That should be the bare minimum requirement — that you believe in the country you’re representing.”

Should Gwen Berry be thrown off the team?

No.

Absolutely not.

Gwen Berry has a right to do something I dislike

As stomach churning as I find it to disrespect our flag and anthem, it is essential that we allow it. Freedom of Speech must be absolute — or as close to absolute as possible — most especially the speech that we find stomach churning.

Our flag and our anthem ensure that right.

It’s what we stand for, or in this case kneel for.

Our flag stands for these principles even if you turn your back on it.

Our anthem resonates even when you hide your face in a t-shirt.

Patriotism is not compelled.

If you don’t feel the patriotism, that doesn’t disqualify you as an American and as long as you’re an American, you’re welcome to compete in our name to show the world that you’re the best.

If Gwen Berry wins gold and she chooses to kneel, or hold up a fist, turn her back to the flag or plug her ears for the national anthem — I’ll be sad and maybe even a little angry, but it is her right to express her views through protest.

Especially the views I disagree with.

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