An Olympic gold medalist said she was ‘brave’ for not wearing a mask. It was not well-received. – The Washington Post

On Sunday, Walsh Jennings, 42, wrote on her Instagram account that she recently “went shopping without a mask on,” as part of “a little exercise in being brave.”

“We are all endlessly complaining about the restrictive & arbitrarily selective rules that we are being strongly ‘suggested’ to follow & yet we are all consenting; Not much of a fight, just a lot of complaining & strongly disagreeing with this manipulation, but we keep consenting,” wrote the three-time gold medalist in beach volleyball, who also won a bronze at the 2016 Summer Games. “It’s maddening. It has crushed our society, people’s livelihoods, our children’s spirits, & the fabric of our world.

“We have become a country & a world estranged from each other & it is more deeply unhealthy than any virus could ever be.”

Accompanying that post was an image of a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century essayist and philosopher who emphasized self-reliance and individualism: “Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”

In a separate comment she made on her post, Walsh Jennings cited another quote, this one attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mask-wearing is a critical tool in the effort to curb the pandemic.

“We are not defenseless against covid-19,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in July. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Many states require face masks be worn in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It was not clear where Walsh Jennings was shopping. In an Instagram post published Saturday, she said her family is moving from California, where masks are required in most settings outside the house, to a “new state.”

Walsh Jennings began her Sunday post by writing that while her “intention is NEVER to hurt or disrespect,” she was aware she was about to “upset some people.” A number comments by other Instagram users proved her correct, as Walsh Jennings was roundly criticized, although she also received some messages of support.

“Mask wearing has NOTHING to do with YOUR freedom but rather protecting others,” wrote sports photographer Donald Miralle. “Even if there’s a 1% chance it can help the spread or save a life why wouldn’t you do it? It’s really not that hard, just a small inconvenience ONLY when you’re indoors in public places.

“Unfortunately using your platform to broadcast this selfish viewpoint is disrespectful and hurtful towards the larger population.”

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This is going to be a long post & it’s going to upset some people. My intention is NEVER to hurt or disrespect. Please know that. I am working my way through these curious times that have me questioning everything. I am wanting to lead & stand for my beliefs WITHOUT upsetting people but, per usual when one takes a stand, this is unlikely. If this hurts or upsets you, I am sorry. I am working through my thoughts & my way throughout the madness of 2020. I am wanting to be a light, an encourager of the strength + resilience within each of us and I aspire to be someone whom empowers others to take ownership of all sides of their lives. There is freedom & deep satisfaction in living this way. I want this for everyone. Here we go …. I had a little exercise in being brave yesterday & I’m still a bit edgy about it. I went shopping without a mask on 😬😳🤭 & this is why … I read a quote the other day that shook me – – THIS HAS NOT BEEN ENFORCED, IT’S BEEN CONSENTED TO. This statement woke me up & the truth of it has had me obsessing on the matter of how I can mindfully & compassionately stand up for my rights & for the freedoms our constitution has granted us all WITHOUT being reckless or putting anyone else in danger. We are all endlessly complaining about the restrictive & arbitrarily selective rules that we are being strongly “suggested” to follow & yet we are all consenting; Not much of a fight, just a lot of complaining & strongly disagreeing with this manipulation, but we keep consenting. It’s maddening. It has crushed our society, people’s livelihoods, our children’s spirits, & the fabric of our world. We have become a country & a world estranged from each other & it is more deeply unhealthy than any virus could ever be. I know people are getting sick & many have gone to Heaven. I have lived through a lot of loss in my family, in my life. I cherish life. I would never downplay the impact of a single loss of life. That is it’s own conversation & my heart goes out to all those suffering poor health, the loss of a loved one and the fear that the reaction to & media coverage of COVID-19 has created in your days. Cont. in comments ….

A post shared by Kerri Walsh Jennings 🌹 (@kerrileewalsh) on Sep 6, 2020 at 11:35am PDT

The most decorated beach volleyball player in Olympic history, Walsh Jennings was looking for a fifth medal this year but has reset her sights to 2021 after organizers of the Tokyo Olympics postponed the Games because of the pandemic. In March, she described that as “the most rational and most thoughtful decision you could make for all of the stakeholders.”

However, Walsh Jennings’s comments Sunday suggested that she thought things had gone too far.

She described her mask-less visit to a store, which garnered her glares and a “snarky comment” from another shopper, as “incredibly uncomfortable (shockingly so).”

“I was tempted to just say F it many times and put my mask on,” she wrote. “I didn’t. It was hard. I feel a bit braver for having chosen to live the discomfort. … I do not want to be compelled to do things I do not believe in because it makes others feel better.”

Jennifer Kessy, a former professional beach volleyball player who won an Olympic silver medal in 2012, replied by writing: “You have traveled the world enough to know what freedom is and isn’t. I played you in the finals of a tournament in Dubai. Women were not even allowed in the stadium, show their face in public, and so many other atrocities we can’t even begin to imagine. That isn’t FREEDOM. Just to be wearing a mask isn’t taking your freedom. You can go anywhere you want, buy what you want, eat healthy real food, love who you want, access social media, own a home, and all you need to do is WEAR A MASK. To me this sounds like Freedom.”

When she returned to Instagram on Monday, Walsh Jennings posted an image of the word “truce,” and she wrote, “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.

“I am advocating critical thinking and civility,” she continued. “I am advocating personal responsibility.”

Walsh Jennings led off that post with an indication she wrote it in reaction to the torrent of criticism she had received.

“My goodness gracious. To those I’ve upset so deeply, I am sorry,” she wrote. “To those who are open to hearing where I am coming from, I appreciate your openness and civility. To those in agreement, I appreciate you expressing your views.

“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.”

Later in the post, Walsh Jennings pressed ahead again with her case for questioning coronavirus-related policies and recommendations.

Saying, “I have seen so much conflicting and erroneous data from the experts,” Walsh Jennings wrote Monday that she was “heartbroken for my children” and “devastated for every small business owner who has gone under or who is barely hanging on.”

“I’m not quite sure when we became a world where a differing opinion equates to evil and hatred,” she added, “but here we are.”

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My goodness gracious. To those I’ve upset so deeply, I am sorry. To those who are open to hearing where I am coming from, I appreciate your openness and civility. To those in agreement, I appreciate you expressing your views. 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 …. pages and pages could be written about every side of everyone’s opinion, yet I went for it because I am alarmed for my country – I am heartbroken for my children – I am devastated for every small business owner who has gone under or who is barely hanging on – I have seen so much conflicting and erroneous data from the experts – and on and on and on – I have researched and I have spoken with experts …. This is why I spoke my point of view. At some point we should all stop and take inventory of everything that has been thrown our way over the past months and the reaction/ to these things. If it sits well or well enough with you, great. If not, great. We should all carry on RESPECTFULLY living our virtues, standing up for our beliefs and doing our best to do no harm in doing so. I was not looking to do anything but express my belief that FREEDOM IS RIGHT WORTH FIGHTING FOR, and amidst the chaos, divisiveness, fear and undeniable emotion of these times, I believe we have to stay mindful of the FACT that our freedoms have slowly been taken from us with our consent. I feel each of the words I mentioned above (fear/chaos/divisiveness) are being intentionally stoked and we are becoming a country that I do not recognize. The comment section of my last post is a reflection of where we are at and it is …. tragic. I’m not quite sure when we became a world where a differing opinion equates to evil and hatred, but here we are. 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. I am advocating critical thinking and civility. I am advocating personal responsibility. Cont. below

A post shared by Kerri Walsh Jennings 🌹 (@kerrileewalsh) on Sep 7, 2020 at 11:51am PDT