Gwen Berry’s past is catching up with her before the 2020 Summer Olympics officially begin.
Berry, an American track and field athlete who specializes in the hammer throw, went viral in late June for protesting the U.S. flag and the national anthem. Now, the 32-year-old is under fire for comments she made and wrote over a decade ago.
Berry had racist and offensive tweets several years ago
The world turned its eyes to Berry when she turned away from the U.S. flag when the national anthem played at the track and field trials. Now, they’re paying attention for a far different reason.
The social media community unearthed numerous offensive tweets Berry posted on her personal account primarily between 2011-12. She was in her early 20s at the time and still a few years away from winning a gold medal in the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival’s hammer throw competition.
Some of the tweets remained up at publication, while Fox News shared screen captures of other tweets she later deleted. In March 2012, while still a student-athlete at Southern Illinois University, she posted a troubling joke involving an intoxicated woman being sexually assaulted.
A year earlier, Berry criticized an Asian-American woman for wearing heels with white socks and mocked the Chinese community for “always [trying] to start new trends.” In other tweets, she used a word that negatively refers to people of less advanced mental or intellectual development.
As of publication, Berry had not issued a public statement or apology regarding the tweets.
People haven’t learned to scrub their social media accounts
The internet is forever, especially when people don’t learn from others and scrub their personal accounts.
Social media users have spent several years now digging up old tweets that people in the news, whether they be professional athletes or an average person who went viral, posted in the past. After the Buffalo Bills drafted Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, he needed to apologize for offensive tweets — several of which involved quoting song lyrics including racial slurs — he posted in high school.
Former Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa deleted tweets critical of Colin Kaepernick only weeks before the San Francisco 49ers selected him in the 2019 NFL Draft. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader apologized in July 2018 for racist, homophobic, and misogynistic tweets he posted in high school. His tweets went viral as he pitched in that year’s All-Star Game.
At this point, one would think that anybody who has been on social media for a lengthy period would scrub their old posts. The excuses about being young and immature don’t work, especially when the tweets involve offensive content. Clearly, Berry didn’t get the memo.
Berry’s activism continues to draw attention
Unless someone devoutly follows the hammer throw, those who watch the 2020 Olympic Games may have had trouble picking Berry out of a crowd.
That certainly won’t be the case now, and figures on both sides of the coin have weighed in. Dave Zirin, the sports editor at The Nation, penned a column calling Berry the “hero we need.”
Conversely, Olympic legend Caitlyn Jenner told Newsmax TV that she found Berry’s protest to be “disgusting.” Jenner also said she doesn’t want to see political demonstrations at the Olympics.
Expect to see Berry remain in the news, both for her skills with a hammer and her activism, when the 2021 Olympics begin on Friday, July 23. It will be interesting to see if she addresses her tweets before then or if she leaves them in the past.