Olympic volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings said foregoing a mask is ‘an exercise in bravery,’ then doubled down in a non-apology

  • Three-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings wrote on Instagram that she went shopping without a mask in "an exercise in bravery."
  • After followers lambasted the move, Jennings posted a second Instagram in which she apologized for causing offense yet defended her choice as an act of "freedom."
  • Research has shown over and over that face masks can prevent coronavirus transmission.
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The vast majority of public-health experts agree that wearing a mask helps reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but for some people, face coverings have morphed into a political issue.

You can count three-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings among the naysayers.

Kerri Walsh Jennings (left) spikes the ball during a match at the 2012 Olympics in London.
REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo

In an Instagram post on Sunday, Jennings wrote that she recently chose not to wear a mask when shopping, a move she said came from a desire to "stand up for my rights & for the freedoms our constitution has granted us all WITHOUT being reckless or putting anyone else in danger." Jennings described the decision as "an exercise in bravery."

Masks are required statewide in California, where Jennings lives (she also wrote on Instagram over the weekend that her family would be moving out of the state); however, she did not say in the post where she was shopping. California has recorded the highest COVID-19 case total in the US: more than 745,000 cases.

"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," she wrote. "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."

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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

Responses to the post lambasted Jennings as "selfish," "entitled," and "poorly informed," leading her to craft a follow-up Instagram post, this time with a white flag and the word "TRUCE."

Jennings apologized "to those I've upset so deeply" but didn't seem to budge on her stance about masks. Instead, she said she's "alarmed for my country."

"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," Jennings wrote in the second post. 

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings (right) celebrate their gold-medal victory at the 2012 Olympics.
REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo

Jennings went on to characterize the mask issue as "an emotional, layered, nuanced, and polarizing topic" — even though public-health and infectious-disease experts nearly universally agree that the benefit of mask wearing during the pandemic is not up for debate. A study out of the UK found that requiring all people to wear face masks in public could be enough to contain an outbreak without a lockdown. Similarly, an analysis of of COVID-19 outbreaks across various countries suggested that nations where the people are accustomed to wearing masks experienced less severe outbreaks than those where mask wearing was new.

Jennings wrote in her post that she does not "believe in [masks'] efficacy unless it's of a certain caliber." Research has shown, however, that almost any form of face covering is better than none.

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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

Jennings did, however, clarify that she's "not advocating for people to stop wearing masks" and said she personally wears a mask "most often.

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