Olympic Athlete Gwen Berry Says National Anthem Is ‘Disrespectful’ To Black Americans

Olympic athlete Gwen Berry, who faced a backlash for turning away from the US flag during the national anthem after qualifying for the Olympics with a bronze, doubled down on her protest this time saying the anthem is “disrespectful” to black Americans.

“If you know your history, you know the full song of the national anthem. The third paragraph speaks to slaves in America — our blood being slain … all over the floor,” Berry, 31, said on Black News Channel. “It’s disrespectful, and it does not speak for black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.”

“I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic games. I never said that I hated the country. I never said that,” Berry said. “All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them.” Not everyone agrees with Berry’s interpretation of the lyrics. For example, CNN said about the line she quotes, “This part isn’t meant as pro-slavery language. It’s referring to the British-poisoned ground – their polluting presence on American soil.”

According to CNN: “Like so many famous songs of yore, “The Star-Spangled Banner” started as a poem, called “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” It was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 during the War of 1812. The stanzas recount the Battle of Baltimore, a days-long siege between British and American forces.

“The poem was set to a tune called “The Anacreontic Song,” which was composed in the late 1700s by a man named John Stafford Smith. The song was linked to the Anacreontic Society, which was an amateur musician’s and singer’s club named after the Greek poet Anacreon.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” wasn’t actually adopted as the official anthem of the United States until 1931, though it was already popular and had already been used by several American institutions by then.

These are the original lyrics:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,

’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.