Olympic beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings has been met with criticism for her anti-mask comments
Kerri Walsh Jennings
Kerri Walsh Jennings
| Credit: Buda Mendes/Getty

Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings has apologized after making anti-mask statements, but is continuing to insist that “our freedoms have slowly been taken from us” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Walsh Jennings shared an Instagram message on Monday, writing, “This is going to be a long post & it’s going to upset some people.”

In the caption, she went on to say she “had a little exercise in being brave” and “went shopping without a mask on.” Her actions go against the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wear a face mask in public to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Since the onset of the pandemic, the illness has infected at least 6.3 million people and led to 189,961 deaths in the United States alone.

The athlete said she decided to forgo a mask after reading a quote that “shook” her — “This has not been enforced, it’s been consented to.” She also compared being asked to wear a mask to slavery, sharing a Thomas Jefferson quote, “I PREFER DANGEROUS FREEDOM TO PEACEFUL SLAVERY.”

Many in the comments called Walsh Jennings out for her “dangerous” statements, including her own sister Kelli Mezzetti, as identified by USA Today and other outlets, who wrote, “You are better than this.” Walsh Jennings replied with, “I AM THIS.”

On Tuesday, Walsh Jennings shared another lengthy post apologizing, but stood by most of her initial statement and said that she doesn’t believe in “the efficacy” of masks, despite multiple studies that have shown they help curb the spread of the virus.

“To those I’ve upset so deeply, I am sorry,” she wrote in Tuesday’s post, before seeming to directly address her sister’s comment. “To those calling me dumb, selfish, privileged, bigoted, and racist and telling me that ‘you are better than this,' I fully acknowledge that addressing such an emotional, layered, nuanced and polarizing topic on social media was not the smartest thing.”

“I believe we have to stay mindful of the FACT that our freedoms have slowly been taken from us with our consent,” she continued, before adding that her view on masks is merely a “differing opinion.”

“I am not advocating for people to stop wearing masks. I wear a mask most often. I don’t believe in their efficacy unless it’s of a certain caliber, yet I wear them,” she said. “I am advocating critical thinking and civility. I am advocating personal responsibility.”

Walsh Jennings was once again criticized in the comments section of the post, though some agreed with her stance, including former NFL quarterback Brett Favre who wrote, “Amen!!!”

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