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IN MY ORBIT: A Third-Rate Gwen Berry Cannot Hold a Candle to the First Class Jackie Joyner-Kersee

MATT DUNHAM

I stopped watching coverage of the Olympics Games eons ago. I think the last time I bothered to stay up late for any of the action was when Flo Jo and Jackie Joyner-Kersee dazzled us with their speed, physical excellence and ingenuity, and when the Maury Povich-style drama of Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding melted the ice in figure skating.

Yeah, I’m that many years old.

Except to cover it here, I’m not missing any sleep for the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympics Games either. They have not even begun, and we are already seeing the Woke tantrums and shenanigans of the Olympic Committee, the sports press, and the athletes. Our resident sports blogger, my new colleague Jerry Wilson, has covered some of the stupidity here.

This weekend, you had ESPN’s village idiot Jalen Rose, spouting off about the U.S. Olympics Committee being afraid to have an all-Black basketball team, and that white player Kevin Love being on the U.S. team is tokenism.

Jerry rightly skewers him, and apparently Rose has had to issue an apology—that’s a first; let’s hope it’s not the last.

Also this weekend, Hammer athlete Gwen Berry, who placed third in the trials, decided that her third-place finish was an appropriate time for some first-rate foolishness.

Berry had this planned long before the trials in Eugene, OR, you know. She alluded to it in a puff piece The Washington Post did on her, giving a platform to her BLM activism.

Her next step, she hopes, will be her second Olympics. Berry will enter the trials with confidence after a strong training period. A self-described “in-the-moment person,” she has not decided how she will demonstrate in Eugene, other than to “represent my people,” she said.

I don’t know what “people” Berry thought she was representing, but it certainly wasn’t me.

The WaPo piece went on to illumine:

Should she place in the top three, Berry will wear a Team USA uniform in Tokyo. She said pulling it on before her other international meets has left her conflicted.

“For me, it’s always been something that’s been underlyingly uncomfortable, knowing that I’m rocking this big ‘USA’ across my chest when everything about America is to demean and to keep Black people at the bottom of the totem pole,” Berry said. “It has always, always, always been something I have been very uncomfortable with. I’m glad I’m able to say that without being punished or without being misunderstood.

After this refusal to honor the American flag, Berry is now getting the Colin Kaepernick treatment: lauded as a true activist, getting defended against the usual trope of white supremacy by the Woke BLM sympathizers. On the other side of the aisle, she is getting skewered for being ungrateful, and, well… embarrassing.

The raised fist protests of Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics at least had some dignity about it. Berry’s hand-on-hips- half turn away from the flag is just pathetic. Holding up an “Activist Athlete” shirt over her head made it even moreso.

So now, Berry is claiming she was set up, as though it is some bizarre thing that the national anthem of the winning country is played at the medal ceremony. My understanding is that these athletes have rule and etiquette books thicker than the Bible, so I’m sure somewhere in there is protocol on what to do when you hear those first strains of, “Oh say, can you see?”

I am not going to belabor Berry or her choice to be a Woke activist first, and an athlete second. My colleagues have already given her full court press here, here, and here. Berry is essentially a third-place finisher who got attention not because of her athleticism and prowess, but because of her so-called protest.

Deanna Price was the first place Hammer finisher, and Brooke Andersen placed second. But this was overshadowed by a fourth rate stunt by a third-rate competitor.

All this drama serves to do is overshadow what the Olympics are supposed to be about: focused training to reach an elite goal; athleticism; the best of the best testing their mettle against each other; the common thread of the Games which brings the world together around this unified bond.

Sadly, the Olympics moved away from this quite some time ago, and if Gwen Berry is any indicator, so have some of the athletes.

Speaking of the late, great Florence Griffith-Joyner, did you know that the records she set in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics still stand? Gabby Thomas, who just placed first in the track and field trials for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, set a new trial record. However, Thomas still trails behind the record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner over 30 years ago in 1988.

You see, sometimes leaving a legacy for Black Lives has little to do with what you spout out your mouth or what you wear, and more about what you actually accomplish.

The late Griffith-Joyner’s sister-in-law and U.S. track and field teammate, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, also understood this.

After Joyner-Kersee’s tremendous wins across four Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996), including three gold medals, Joyner-Kersee started the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation. The JJK Foundation enriches the lives of young people with not only practical assistance like transportation to school and the JJK Center, and meals, but the Foundation also teaches life lessons in morality, responsibility, and uplift. Joyner-Kersee refers to them as “principles of transformation” that the young people can take back to their community.

Joyner-Kersee was recently interviewed by NBC News about the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, and the work of her foundation.

Sports Illustrated named Joyner-Kersee the “Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century”, and her Adidas endorsement is spotlighting Joyner-Kersee and the JJK Foundation’s work with their Honoring Black Excellence Series.

The NBC host asked Joyner-Kersee, “What does it mean to you to be considered a huge trailblazer?”

Joyner-Kersee, with her gorgeous smile that shines as brightly as her athletic feats, had this to say:

“You know what? It is just an honor to be a part of the Adidas family. And more importantly, they see me beyond the things on the athletic field. What I have been doing in my community for over 30 years, and to inspire a generation that they can be anything they want to be,” she said.

It is beyond heartening and refreshing to know that a powerful, Black icon who has given so much to the world in terms of physical accomplishment, athletic mastery, inspiration, and excellence, is neither decrying how horrible America is for Blacks, or bemoaning how we have gone backwards, or how far we have to go forward. Instead, Joyner-Kersee is inspiring and equipping young people to believe in their dreams, to pursue those dreams, and that nothing is impossible.

Joyner-Kersee continued:

“And so, being able to have, you know, the Black Excellence right behind me, and to celebrate with Adidas is so important, you know? For the work that I do in the community of East St. Louis and telling young people the impossible is probable, and Black Excellence is YOU.”

Thirty years from now, will anyone be interviewing Gwen Brewer about her athletic accomplishments or Woke activism? Will she have saved any Black Lives?

I have my doubts.


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