"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." That phrase - often attributed to Bernard Baruch - could easily be applied to the tenor of our times, especially this past week.
At the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend, a scene that's becoming all-too-familiar played out during a medal ceremony for the women's hammer throw event. As the gold, silver, and bronze medalists were on the podium receiving their medals, the national anthem began to play - not for the medal ceremony, but to precede the start of the evening session of the trials. Most in attendance, including the gold and silver medalist, turned toward the flag with hands on heart for the anthem. But bronze medalist Gwen Berry - who will be representing the United States of America in Tokyo on the U.S. Olympic team - chose that moment to put on display an open disdain for America's national anthem. Berry, hand on hip, turned away from the flag, and put a T-shirt that read "activist athlete" over her head.
According to the New York Post, Berry claimed that the organizers set her up by playing the anthem when she was on the podium:
Despite her own questionable antics while her nation's anthem played, Berry called out the Olympic trial organizers as being inappropriate -- to her. "It was real disrespectful," she said.
Disrespectful to her? Such antics are not new ground for this athlete. Berry was reprimanded by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee last year during a medal ceremony at the Pan American Games when she raised her fist while the anthem played (committee rules do not allow protests). And earlier last week, during athlete introductions at the trials, Berry offered the same raised fist for the photo-op. Berry was in no way pushed into making such a display.
One of the beautiful things about this country is that anyone is free to not only have grievances against this country, but to also voice those grievances. No one takes issue with that. What is difficult to understand, however, is how on one hand, you can protest America for injustice, while at the same time representing America on the world stage. Activists like Berry have no problem representing the nation when it's convenient for their career path. It seems lost on them that the nation which gave them room to flourish is the very thing that they're spurning.
To represent the United States of America is an honor, not a platform. Abusing such an honor for a display of contempt shows unfitness for that honor, no matter how physically fit an athlete might be otherwise. As Franklin Graham put it, "If you're competing in the Olympics to represent the U.S. and you disrespect our country by disrespecting the flag or our national anthem, that should automatically disqualify you from the team." On this point, whether you're a hammer thrower or any other athlete, Franklin hits the nail on the head.