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Gwen Berry gets apology from US Olympic committee but wants change

Stu Durando, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Olympics

ST. LOUIS -- Gwen Berry was looking for a little support last year after she raised a fist in protest on the podium at the Pan American Games during the playing of the national anthem.

Instead she was placed on probation by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Some of the support she was seeking came nearly a year later when the USOPC, reacting to protests of the killing of George Floyd, made a public statement backing its athletes who might be feeling "anger, frustration and uncertainty."

That message was delivered by CEO Sarah Hirshland, who had placed Berry on probation for 12 months. Perhaps fittingly, Berry was participating in a protest in Houston when Hirshland posted her message on Twitter.

When the graduate of McCluer High School in Florissant, Mo., read Hirshland's words, she responded with her own Twitter post.

She demanded an apology.

 

"Two days later Hirshland called, and initially she told me that she apologized and explained why she put me on the probation," Berry said. "To me, her apology wasn't sincere because she hadn't done enough history. If you're the CEO over an organization where a majority of athletes are Black, you should know historical references. She didn't do any history prior to putting me on probation, so I felt the apology wasn't genuine."

Berry has not had her probation revoked. She hopes the committee will consider changes to a rule in the Olympic charter that prohibits "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda."

Berry was training in the hammer throw for the Olympics when they were postponed until 2021. She finished 14th in the 2016 Olympics and was an alternate for the 2012 team. The former thrower for Southern Illinois-Carbondale has the fifth-longest mark ever posted in the hammer throw.

It was after she won the gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, that she made her public protest.

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