Critics erupted Monday after Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) demanded that Black athlete Gwen Berry be kicked off the U.S. Olympic team for turning her back on the American flag during the anthem in protest at trials over the weekend.
Berry, a hammer thrower who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after placing third in Oregon, was protesting “systemic racism” and police brutality in the U.S.
“We don’t need any more activist athletes,” Crenshaw snapped Monday on “Fox & Friends.” “She should be removed from the team. The entire point of the Olympic team is to represent the United States of America. It’s the entire point.”
He then called such protests, which are protected by the First Amendment, a “pathology” linked to “teaching critical race theory,” referring to education about how the nation’s history has solidified a social structure based on racism.
Critics on social media pointed out that Crenshaw voted against the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the violence Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump turned poles holding the U.S. flag into weapons as they stormed the building to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
While Crenshaw has attacked Trump and his colleagues for inciting the violence at the Capitol, he also wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay that it was “no surprise that thousands showed up to make their voices heard.”
The “real cause” of the “unrest was that many officeholders and commentators misled millions of Americans to believe that the vote count was their final chance to have a say,” he added, a situation he did not describe as “pathological.”
Berry’s actions were nonviolent, and they didn’t appear to violate any rules of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics Committee. In fact, Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the USOPC, told athletes late last year in a post and letter that she believed “their right to advocate for racial and social justice and act as a force for good deserves the support” of the committee.
The organization determined then that athletes will be allowed to “peacefully and respectfully” engage in demonstrations in support of racial or social causes at the Olympics.
Earlier in March, the committee had also determined it would allow some forms of peaceful protest during the Olympic qualifying trials, including kneeling during the anthem and raising fists.
Athletes’ “right to advocate for racial and social justice aligns with the fundamental values of equality that define Team USA and the Olympic and Paralympic movements,” the committee stated then.
Berry dismissed Crenshaw’s comments as an obsession.
Others were far more scathing.