When the Summer Olympics roll around, Americans are introduced and reintroduced to the star athletes that they’re going to be hearing about the most for the next two weeks. Usually, the Olympians hail from the same sports that Team USA has been hoarding gold in for years–swimming, gymnastics, basketball, and beach volleyball (and maybe track-and-field too).
While Gabby Douglas was the champion of the United States’s gymnastics crew in London four years ago, for these games, Simone Biles is the girl to watch. With her ferocious talent come sponsorships, national abuzz, and, yes, an in-depth look into her background.
It was one broadcaster’s particular approach to analyzing the three-time World Champion’s family life that had her fans furious this week, and now, he says he’s sorry. According to a Variety report, NBC sports announcer Al Trautwig came under fire when he explicitly insinuated that Simone Biles’s adopted parents, whom she’s referred to as her parents in multiple past interviews, were not actually her real parents at all.
This was following an inspirational segment NBC showed to illuminate the decorated US gymnast’s life. In the special, it becomes clear that the two people who raised Biles were her maternal grandparents, who took over the responsibility when Biles was about three years old when her mother couldn’t. Ronald and Nellie Biles, who also took in Simone’s siblings, raised her into the Olympian who just won gold as part of the now-famous “Final Five” US women’s gymnastics team. It was clear that, to her, these two people were who she saw as her parents.
Precisely after the movie ended, Trautwig, who has commentated on many past sporting events in his long career, tried to clarify that Ronald and “his wife” were the people that raised Biles, rather than her biological parents. Specifically, it was the wording that ignited the country’s anger–said Trautwig, Biles was “raised by her grandfather and his wife and she calls them mom and dad.”
The implication that the people who raised her needed to be separated from that act because of who they biologically were set Twitter ablaze, as well as the sexism implied by even disregarding Nellie Biles’s identity. Then, Trautwig only further sat in his new bed of coals when a new tweet–which he then tried to delete before anyone saw it, but of course, someone did and screen-shot it–made his opinions of her parentage pretty clear.
Said Trautwig in the tweet, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”
Now, the commentator is having to apologize for his inflammatory comments, after much pushing from NBC. “I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” said Trautwig in a statement. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”
This doubled-down comment was not the first time these Olympics that Trautwig has infuriated American fans over his analysis of the gymnasts. Multiple times so far has he called Gabby Douglas by Simone Biles’s name, and vice versa. The two are the only black women on the team.
Meanwhile, as Team USA’s conquest for more gold continues, there has been no response from Biles over the statements. After all, she’s probably a little preoccupied with the new heavy gold medal hanging from her neck.