Gymnast Simone Biles is poised to become one of the most celebrated athletes from the 2016 Rio Olympics, placing first in the women’s all-around qualification earlier this week. She’s expected to lead the U.S. to gold Tuesday night in the women’s team final.
But even she isn’t immune to criticism on social media, including one unlikely source: NBC Sports commentator Al Trautwig.
Trautwig, a broadcast veteran whose career spans 40 years and includes several Olympics, has been called out for insensitive comments he’s made on air and Twitter about Biles’ parents.
Biles was adopted by her maternal grandparents — Ron and Nellie Biles — as a toddler. Biles has called them “my parents” in press interviews. The couple were even referred to as such in a profile piece that aired on NBC on Sunday. However, after that segment, Trautwig took it upon himself to elaborate, saying Biles “was raised by her grandfather and his wife and she calls them mom and dad.”
This angered viewers who felt that Trautwig’s “his wife” comments were disrespectful to Nellie and the entire statement refuted how Simone defined their relationship. The broadcaster only added fuel to the flame after posting this (now deleted) tweet.
It read: “The may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”
One viewer — who identifies herself as a mother of adopted children — was able to screengrab the tweet before deletion:
— Jen #thatwomaninMichigan Talley (@jentalleydesign) August 8, 2016
NBC reportedly told Trautwig to apologize on Monday. “I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” he stated. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”
Trautwig’s comments have reignited the discussion about biological versus adoptive parents online, with the majority of respondents saying he spoke insensitively, or ignorantly.
Trautwig has also consistently confused Biles with her teammate Gabby Douglas in his on-air commentary. Both gymnasts are African-American.
Biles and Douglas will be competing for gold in Tuesday night’s women’s team final on NBC. Biles will compete in all four events.