A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Gold Medal in Bigotry

                                (Above: Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast in history)

Female athletes – especially African-American female athletes – have been dominating the Olympics, but you'd never know it from listening to those old white dudes in the media.
From NBC's Al Trautwig harping that gold medal gymnast Simone Biles's grandparents, who have raised her since she was a baby, are not actually her parents, to his colleague Dan Hicks' contention that 400-meter gold medalist Katinka Hosszu's husband is "the guy responsible" for her win, to the Chicago Tribune's reporting Corey Cogdell-Unrein bronze medal in trap shooting with the headline "Wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein wins bronze in Rio," the sexism was almost comical if it weren't so embarrassing.
African-American gymnast Gaby Douglas, a member of the gold medal-winning all-around team, was thoroughly trashed by the right wing media for not holding her hand over her heart during the medal ceremony, but they never uttered a peep when Donald Trump did the same thing during the presidential debates.
But at least her ceremony was televised. When 100-meter freestyler Simone Manuel made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold in an individual swimming event – with all its social/political implications, given the bitter civil rights battles during the 1960s over blacks being allowed to use "white" swimming pools – NBC didn't even show her medal ceremony.
NBC didn't televise the opening ceremony live, either, because, as chief marketing officer Jeff Miller explained, "The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they're less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It's sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one."
Want more? Uzbecki gymnast Oksana Chusovitina was roundly criticized because her pink and white leotard "failed to complement her skin tone," Austrian Larrissa Miller "turned heads for all the wrong reasons" because her leotard had "an unattractive teal hue with a rhinestone-covered collar," and when NBC's camera showed the U.S. women's gymnastic team gathered together during the all-around competition a male announcer – whom NBC still refuses to identify – said, "They might as well be standing in the middle of a mall."
Before you accuse me of political correctness, ask yourself: When was the last time you heard this kind of language being used about men, especially white men? Michael Phelps is being called "the greatest Olympian in history," but Katie Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time world champion, is only "the female Michael Phelps" and is praised by saying "She swims like a man."
One incident can be brushed off as a fluke. Two could be a coincidence. But three or more – and there are a lot more – is a definite pattern. Shame on the media in general and NBC in particular.
But there's one shining exception: swimming commentator Rowdy Gaines, who said, "A lot of people think she swims like a man. She swims like Katie Ledecky, for crying out loud!"
Of course, Gaines is a three-time gold medalist himself, unlike Trautwig, whose sole connection to organized sports was being stick-boy for the New York Islanders and ball boy for the New York Nets, or Hicks, who, as far as I can determine, never played organized sports at all. So what does he know?

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