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Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings Faces Backlash for Not Wearing a Mask While Shopping: It’s ‘Brave’

Standing her ground. Kerri Walsh Jennings isn’t backing down after drawing backlash for her controversial remarks about wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Stars Who Drew Backlash for Their Controversial Views on Coronavirus

On Sunday, September 6, the 42-year-old Olympian penned a lengthy Instagram statement about defending her individual rights alongside a quote from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. The beach volleyball star — who’s hoping to return to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 — said that while her words might “upset some people,” she didn’t want to “hurt or disrespect” her followers.

“I am working my way through these curious times that have me questioning everything,” she wrote on Sunday. “I am wanting to lead & stand for my beliefs WITHOUT upsetting people but, per usual when one takes a stand, this is unlikely. … 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.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings Says Not Wearing a Mask Amid the Pandemic Is 'Brave'
Kerri Walsh Jennings. Rob Latour/Shutterstock

Walsh’s statement continued: “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.”

Related: How Stars Including Demi Moore Are Self-Quarantining: Pics

The three-time Olympic gold medalist noted that despite “endlessly complaining” about the supposedly “restrictive” health and safety guidelines in place during the pandemic, she hasn’t seen people put up “much of a fight.”

“It’s maddening,” she added. “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 would never downplay the impact of a single loss of life. That is its 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.”

The following day, Walsh reacted to the negative comments she received about her post, especially those calling her “dumb, selfish, privileged, bigoted, and racist.”

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“I fully acknowledge that addressing such an emotional, layered, nuanced and polarizing topic on social media was not the smartest thing,” the California native wrote in a separate post alongside an image of a white flag. “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 … 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.”

Given the constantly evolving nature of COVID-19, Us Weekly wants our readers to have access to the most accurate resources. For the most up-to-date coronavirus information, guidance, and support, consult the CDC, WHO, and information from local public health officials. If you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, call your primary care provider for medical advice.

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