Originally published June 30, 2021
One of the most inspirational and patriotic sports movies of all time is 2004’s Miracle. This movie was about more than the United States victory over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid in 1980; it was about what we as Americans were fighting for. But the Age of Miracle is over.
This week, Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry metaphorically spit in the face of America when she disrespected the flag and the national anthem. Berry, who placed third in the hammer throw, qualifying her for the Tokyo Olympics, turned away from the flag and covered her face when the anthem played at a pre-scheduled time. Then, in an act of pure self-obsessed egomania, she thought that the anthem was played just to bother her.
“I feel like it was setup,” Berry said. “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest. I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be all right. I see what’s up.” Berry had a few words about the anthem itself. “I really don’t want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem don’t speak for me. It never has.”
The anthem, whether she likes it or not, is one of the few aspects of America that is supposed to unite us. Despite our differences, despite America’s imperfections and flaws, symbols like the flag and anthem are supposed to allow us to focus, for two minutes, on America’s greatness. But Berry won’t allow that. So she put a shirt over her head that read “Activist Athlete.”
She’s not the first Olympic athlete to disrespect the country. Chelsea Wolfe, the transgender woman (man who believes he is a woman) who qualified for the BMX Freestyle competition for the Tokyo games, wrote on Facebook last year, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium. This is what they focus on during a pandemic. Hurting trans children.” The post has since been deleted and Wolfe claimed that he actually does care about the country.
The US men’s basketball team includes star Kevin Durant, who voluntarily skipped the national anthem during the NBA season. Others, including Draymond Green and Jayson Tatum, backed Colin Kaepernick when he knelt for the flag, or participated in kneeling last year.
Long gone are the days when the Olympics was a way to display your patriotism. In one of the most rewatchable scenes in the movie Miracle, Coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) makes the players run skating drills deep into the night. While trying to get them to become a team, he instilled in them that the name on the front of their hockey jerseys, “USA,” was far more important than their own names on the back. He asked the players over and over again, prior to this, who they played for. Until this moment, they each stated the college where they played hockey. That’s when Mike Eruzione, who went on to be the team captain, shouted out, “I play for the United States of America.”
The scene, dramatized for the film, was a chilling moment and turning point of the movie. The real Mike Eruzione, who stood on the podium in 1980 and sang along with The Star-Spangled Banner, reacted to Wolfe’s statement about burning the flag.
“I actually couldn’t believe it,” he told Fox News. “I mean, first of all, burning the American flag anywhere is disgusting, to use your forum on the podium of the Olympic Games, I was like really, could someone actually think about doing that? … I just couldn’t even imagine the mindset of someone thinking that made sense.” Later in the segment, Eruzione continued, “It’s the ultimate honor; it’s not a Super Bowl or a World Series or a Stanley Cup. This is the United States. You represent every part of this country.”
If our country had any self-respect, any athlete that disrespected the flag or the anthem would be disqualified from representing that country in the Olympics. The Olympics is, in a way, a diplomatic mission as well as an athletic competition. How can we allow our representatives to attack our nation on the world stage?
Unfortunately, our country doesn’t instill patriotism into our youth, so there is no respect for our nation and her achievements. Pew Research says that 36% of 18-29-year-olds think that other countries are better than the United States. Broken down politically, 19% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats of that age group believe that. Considering that the only history taught in school is America’s greatest sins, as opposed to her unique triumphs, the next generation won’t poll much better.
It’s time to respect ourselves again. The first thing we can do, as a nation, is reject athletes who don’t have the decency to respect our flag when they represent the country that allowed them to get famous for throwing a hammer, riding a bicycle, or shooting a basketball. They certainly deserve it.
Moshe Hill is a political columnist and Senior Fellow at Chovevei Zion. You can find Moshe on his blog at www.aHillwithaView.com, facebook.com/aHillwithaView, or twitter.com/TheMoHill.