Olympics Oppression?: Gabby Douglas and Smile Politics

30 Jul

I tune in to  the Summer Olympics every four years primarily for one sport: Women’s Gymnastics. I like basketball, women’s tennis, track and field, and men’s diving, too. But Gymnastics is my bread and butter.

I had the privilege of falling in love with gymnastics in the early 1990s, the golden era of Team USA. All coached by the great Bela Karolyi, the 1992 and 1996 teams featured the likes of Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, and Dominique Moceanu, just a few of my faves from back in the day. And my all time favorite moment is when Kerri Strug perfectly stuck that vault landing with an injured ankle at the ’96 Olympics. I’ve never seen more heart. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

So I was mad excited to tune in to see this year’s team of five girls, the favorite Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, McKalya Maroney, Kyla Ross, and Gabby Douglas.

Gabby, Aly, Kyla, Jordyn, and McKayla

I’m cheering for all of them, but I have a soft spot for the girls of color on the team, including African American Gabby Douglas, and Kyla Ross, who is of African-American, Japanese, Puerto Rican, and Dominican  (Correction: Filipina) descent.

As with most sports coverage though, every time a Black girl participates in a sport traditionally dominated by white women, you can count on the commentators to show their asses. And they did not disappoint yesterday.

17 year old, reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify to compete for the individual all-around finals. As shocking as it was for all of us, it must be truly tough to have your life long dream dashed before a watching world. And I agree with Bela Karolyi that the top 24 girls regardless of country should compete in the all arounds, rather than the top 2 from each country. 

Be that as it may,  Jordyn’s best friend and teammate Aly Raisman will compete for gold along with Gabby Douglas. But Jordyn’s understandable disappointment in no way justifies the uneven and downright biased coverage that Gabby received for her performance.

First, during floor exercises, Gabby stepped out of bounds with both feet, resulting in several tenths of a point deduction in her score. That’s not an insignificant error for sure, but the rest of her routine was almost flawlessly executed.

You wouldn’t know it to listen to the sportscasters chomping at the bit, talking about how absolutely terrible it was, what a HUGE mistake she’d made, how low her score was going to be. And on. AND ON.

Never mind that Jordyn had a bad day. She gaffed on her balance beam routine and almost fell, but the commentators focused on how she recovered and pulled it off, by sheer strength of will. And a monster toe grip. I’m not tossing any shade to Jordyn. It was a beautiful routine.

But the sportscasters are far, FAR from impartial.

For instance, peep this coverage about Jordyn Wieber’s upsetting finish. Around the 1:22 mark, you’ll notice that they show an individual picture of every team member EXCEPT Gabby!

Aly and Gabby advanced to the all-arounds, coaches and teammates hugged and congratulated Aby. They comforted and consoled Jordyn. But they said not a word to Gabby. There were no hi-fives, congratulations (not on any coverage I saw), no celebration. Just total disappointment on Jordyn’s behalf, and the overwhelming sense at least among the sportscasters who talked about Jordyn’s dashed hopes and dreams that Gabby didn’t really deserve it, that she’d taken a spot that didn’t belong to her. 

Why celebrate Aly and not Gabby?

In the immediate interviews afterward, Aly got asked questions about how excited she was, how she felt about her friend, but ultimately what this meant for her dreams. Gabby on the other hand got three questions about her shortcomings — her mistakes during the floor exercise, the belief among the coaching staff that she couldn’t handle the pressure, and her feelings about coming in ahead of her teammate (who presumably) deserved it more. The fourth and final question asked her how she felt to be there, and like Black girls used to this kind of passive aggressive white hostility are so deft at doing, she responded with an affirmation of confidence in herself.

And then she gave that big beautiful smile that everyone keeps focusing on.

Her smile is beautiful to be sure. And a world in which Black girls smile, giddy from the joy of being able to pursue their dreams, is a world I want more of.

But after having read Toni Morrison’s analysis of Clarence Thomas’ nomination hearings for the Supreme Court, and the copious amount of times that Congressmen referred to his great smile and jovial personality (rather than his record of legal scholarship and groundbreaking rulings), I am suspicious of these kinds of smile politics.

Perhaps, focusing on her smile makes Gabby seem non-threatening. And make no mistake–she’s in it to win it.

It remains unclear to me why Kyla Ross is not subjected to similar kinds of coverage, but I think that she is exoticized a bit on the one hand, and on the other, while she is a strong part of the team, she hasn’t presented herself as a threat to any of the individual goals set by the white girls on the team. But Gabby’s ambitions and her ability to achieve them are clear.

I guess I should be used to this kind of shamtastery in the sports commentating after years of watching the Williams Sisters dominate women’s tennis. But it still irks me. Even so, I’m cheering on Team USA, and I’m #teamGabby all the way!

Feel free to weigh in:

Are y’all watching the Olympics?

What are your fave sports/athletes?

Have y’all noticed this differential coverage in the Olympics?

129 Responses to “Olympics Oppression?: Gabby Douglas and Smile Politics”

  1. GymnastMom July 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM #

    On point…Nicely, professionally, and accurately worded!!!!

    • Houston Baker August 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM #

      I have been fiercely ticked at what can only be called “white lavishing,” whether of dismay that the so-called fav (How could that be when Jordyn LOST to Gabby at the trials?!) bombed enough to miss the individuals. Or, white “excusing”: the fav was “underscored.” (Irony in that word, for sure.) I think the article here is brilliantly on-point, and rather more kind than I have been as I have excoriated my flat screen. I saw ALL of the girls, other than Gabby, consoling, “salutating,” hugging, communicating and, to my mind — totally — and in that manner that can only be called white privilege “bitchery” dissing Gabby, who is THE BEST, and who has been and, I hope, will continue to set the Gold Standard for Women’s Gymnastics. I have found the treatment of Gabby flagrantly racist, rudely unmannerly, and inexcusably unprofessional — a real blot on the entire sport as far as I am concerned.

      Houston Baker

      • Chris"American Idol"Allen August 3, 2012 at 7:17 PM #

        Quannel X !! Wondering when you would comment! Lucky Gabby won. She steped out of bounds(CLEARLY via replay) and never sticks her landings like Viktoria,From Russia, or Aly did on floor. All the millions U.S.A. brings to the IOC and the presence of Michelle Obama and the ‘American Black Movement’ had nothing to do with the out come of one of only sports of the Olympiad determined by the decisions of others and NOT out right 1st,2nd & 3rd Time Splits.

  2. shelly July 30, 2012 at 11:45 AM #

    Very good points, I was thinking the same thing. They are very tough on Gabby and I thought the immediate questions after her performance were questionable. I felt like this is how Serena Williams is treated- always having to justify herself.

    • Maggie July 30, 2012 at 12:07 PM #

      Agreed, I noticed that the commentators were extremely harsh on Gabby’s step-out and didn’t at all discuss how she bounced back from it and completed the rest of her routine well. There was SO much discussion around Jordyn (understandable) and Aly, but hardly any coverage at all. I was watching it with friends who normally don’t follow gymnastics and they didn’t even know who Gabby was!

  3. rachel kann July 30, 2012 at 12:03 PM #

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! Great Article. Spreading it.

  4. Kalima Young July 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM #

    I can’t stand the Olympics and these kinds of things are one of the reasons why.

  5. Rachel D. July 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM #

    I’m watching whatever NBC puts on its highlights reel since I don’t have cable, which has lead me down a path of the less-likely-to-be-televised in the U.S. sports, such as judo wrestling, women’s weightlifting, and fencing. Watching what NBC is willing to post for free has been interesting in its own right, and I’ve gotten to see a lot more images of different kinds of female athleticism (often without commentary–which is refreshing) as a result.

    I wonder if Gabby would have made it under the old scoring system. Judging on the execution score alone might have taken away her edge, since both she and Jordyn made significant mistakes in their routines. I also wonder if fans and sports journalists haven’t fully adapted to that scoring system. Fans can see mistakes, but they can’t always judge how much harder one routine is than another at this level of competition. That might be influencing the commentary to some degree.

    I always felt that Dominique Dawes was shortchanged during her competitive career. She was doing stuff in her floor routines, for example, that seemed way beyond what everyone else was doing. She took bigger risks, but she wasn’t rewarded for them. She was never taken seriously as a contender for an all-around medal, even though (as Wikipedia points out) in the 1996 Olympic games, she was the only gymnast who had her scores count from all of the apparatuses.

    I like how the current scoring system really does reward the best gymnast on the floor, and it might still be uncomfortable for some fans (and judges…and sportscasters…) to realize that gymnast isn’t a cute white girl. Of all the sports in the summer Olympics, gymnastics remains the dumping ground for bizarre cultural hang-ups around femininity and beauty. (Why do the women have to perform to music while the men do not? Why are these women competing in pink sparkle spandex suits?) I hope reluctant fans can get over it, and root for Gabby, whether she’s smiling at the end of a great routine or frowning in concentration and whether she conforms to their idea of an elite gymnast or not. Her tough routines earned her the spot.

  6. xtica July 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM #

    i noticed the politics right away- on saturday night nbc did an interview with the ‘fab five’ minus gabby and it seemed to be as glaring as a slap in my face…uf! intolerable!

    • Ragan July 30, 2012 at 2:55 PM #

      Stop cherry picking. They didn’t include Jordyn Saturday night either. The Saturday interview was designed to give the 3 lessen known gymnasts (I.e., the ones NOT featured in promos) some pre-game camera time.

  7. Martina Martin July 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM #

    I was hoping you all would comment on this; excellent piece, as always!

  8. jalylah July 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM #

    Thanks for this post. I just read the Time magazine profile of Gabby (http://olympics.time.com/2012/07/19/gabby-douglas-olympic-gymnastics/) and the article evinces the same preoccupations you observed by the press in the post prelim interviews: doubt and shortcomings. And it is very much an instance of the systemic psychological warfare black women endure here, there and everywhere in addition to the odd-one-in dance the team performed when the Gabby advanced to the all around with Aly in lieu of both white besties. This is why when Gabby said she inhabited confidence and meditated on scripture in response to the abrasive line of questioning, I was encouraged and impressed. That said, her coping mechanisms still place the burden of dealing with the foolery on her. And that ain’t fair. Also, although I am extremely disappointed in Gabby’s parents for not attending to her hair, I know the Virginia native does reside with a white family in Iowa for training purposes and I will refrain from making any further comments about it except for real quick. LOL. I think the hair is her trying to fit in. She wants to slick back a straight long ponytail and pin it up haphazardly like her teammates but her hair is not about that life. At all. Nor are the products she is using. How awesome would if be if she rocked twists or a natural like our girl Dominique Dawes does now but didn’t during her competitive days?! And is there any space in a sport already averse to us for us to be fully embraced as ourselves?!

    • G-NAT July 31, 2012 at 1:34 AM #


      “In only her second year as a senior-level gymnast, Douglas is learning what it takes to harden those nerves into the anchored focus of an Olympian. She has learned that to be a competitor, -you can’t make friends on the floor. “No one is going to feel sorry for you, so you have to go out there and be fierce,” she says.”

      Read more: http://olympics.time.com/2012/07/19/gabby-douglas-olympic-gymnastics/#ixzz22BQIQJMK

      there goes that “strong black woman” bullshit all over again; right, ain’t that how it work? she’s a strong black female, she can take any bullshit we throw her way, she can take it…. #sameoldstory

    • G-NAT July 31, 2012 at 1:43 AM #

      additionally, another interesting article about the nickname, also with a photo of the hair situation 😉 http://thegrio.com/2012/07/30/dominique-dawes-wants-new-nickname-for-gymnast-gabby-douglas/

      • G-NAT July 31, 2012 at 1:56 AM #

        again from the time mag article:

        “Her effortless swings and breath-taking height on the uneven bars earned her the admiration of the national-team coordinator, Martha Karolyi, and the rarely bestowed honor of that nickname, the Flying Squirrel. “I was like, Why can’t it be Superwoman or something like that?” says Douglas. “But I like it.”

        Read more: http://olympics.time.com/2012/07/19/gabby-douglas-olympic-gymnastics/#ixzz22BWA0deS

        From Gabby’s mouth, herself. Yeah, why CAN’T it be Superwoman?…

    • Lainad July 31, 2012 at 7:00 AM #

      I’m a bit confused about your concern over her hair, and as a trans-racial adoptee, really annoyed over how you are making comparisons between her hair and that the family is residing with is white. Shouldn’t we be more concerned that a young and talented black woman is not getting the respect she deserves at the Olympics, than whether she is an adequate ‘role model’ for all black women by not rocking her natural hair?

      • Chrissy-yeah August 1, 2012 at 1:49 AM #

        I’mma natural chick myself…
        and i must disagree….

        with the fact that your comment hasn’t bet congratulated yet! you my friend win the internet.

    • Leslie Douglas August 1, 2012 at 2:33 PM #

      bottom line… it’s not about HAIR… give credit where where credit is due. Gabby did what most of us wish we could have done at her age. She is an Olympian now and forever.

  9. Chanda July 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM #

    Overall a great piece. But Jordyn Wieber has Lebanese heritage, and it shows. I’d be hesitant to carelessly call her white. We have no idea whether in her lived life she is always admitted to the tent of whiteness or whether she sees herself as part of it. The team is incredibly diverse, another thing to be incredibly excited about.

    • Leslye M. Huff July 30, 2012 at 10:51 PM #

      Chanda, we cannot cure the unconsciously driven biases in our culture until we are able to acknowledge that they exist. It’s not about blame, it’s about learning to turn OFF the auto pilot. I invite you and everyone else to take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) you can find it at http://www.implicit.harvard.edu

      There are several different tests, including the most famous of all the IATs, the Race IAT. Self revelation leads to evolution. I wish the sportscaster would take it too.

    • Jen September 16, 2012 at 10:02 AM #

      “But Jordyn Wieber has Lebanese heritage, and it shows. I’d be hesitant to carelessly call her white. We have no idea whether in her lived life she is always admitted to the tent of whiteness or whether she sees herself as part of it.”

      I’ve seen a few Lebanese and Persian new immigrants clearly self-identify as white (while making bigoted comments about traits that annoyed them in Asian people). Arabs seem to self-identify as white, which makes sense given that they’re often pretty similar to Greeks and Italians in appearance. The way the xenophobic media has conflated anti-Islamist sentiment with the American white/non-white race binary has lead to some pretty distorted perceptions of cultural & ethnic identity.

  10. Andy Meeker July 30, 2012 at 1:18 PM #

    Did you also notice, on NBC’s airing anyways, that they never showed Gabby’s name, achievement or scores on the bottom of the screen during her entire interview with ? I knew who she was because I caught an interview she gave a few days ago, but if not for that, I would have had no idea who she was or what she had done. Just ridiculous…

  11. KengeB July 30, 2012 at 1:32 PM #

    I watched last night and missed the announcement of Gabby getting one of the 2 places. So I see and agree with the unfair coverage. I wanted to see her mothers reaction like they showed the other parent(s). I cant believe they couldn’t get 1 parent/sister/ somebody in that childs family there. Hell I would have gave a few $s to get her there

  12. sheridf July 30, 2012 at 2:06 PM #

    Great post as always. I am in Michigan, Jordan’s home state and so my mom-in-law was pretty disappointed about Jordan’s I ability to advance. I also felt something awkward was happening with the coverage and was looking for the congratulations celebratory interview with Gabby that never seemed to happen, yet the non-interview with Jordan and the respectful waiting that seemed central to the post coverage definitely threw me. It was clear Gabby was alone on a “team” and that makes me sad. That’s okay though because Gabby and Aly are “team USA” in the all around.

    I too was excited by the team diversity.

  13. feminist gymnastics fan July 30, 2012 at 2:50 PM #

    I follow gymnastics and I do have some thoughts on this.

    First regarding how the commentators presented Douglas’s floor routine and Wieber’s beam routine. First of all, when a gymnast like Douglas gets a 13.7 on floor routine, it’s not a good routine. The good aspects of her routine do not negate that.

    Jordyn’s beam routine is very problematic, which is why it won’t be used in the team final. The issue is that her problems aren’t easy to explain to casual viewers. She lost tenths on her difficulty score in addition to her execution errors, But a big error like what Douglas did on floor is easier to see and for commentators (especially NBC’s commentators who dumb everything down) to explain.

    Just regarding the smile, it reminds me of how Shawn Johnson was covered. Smiles are really big in mainstream gymnastics coverage, so it’s always going to be focused on.

  14. AVA July 30, 2012 at 2:53 PM #

    Great post. I wrote NBC Sports and The Today Show to tell them how angry I was about their obvious bias.

  15. Leslie July 30, 2012 at 2:59 PM #

    Kyla Ross is rarely given credence for her athletic talent. Instead, during the trials and multiple times during the qualifying rounds references were made to her “international look” that judges supposedly love so much.

    Racial, national, and gender prejudices have been widely displayed throughout the gymnastics coverage this year. Maybe I’m more aware of it than before, but it seems more prominent than in Beijing (despite the constant and expected hang wringing about China’s rise to power).

    For example, I was floored by how the entire coverage of Russia and Romania’s women’s teams were dominated by a discussion of the “emotional” and “diva” qualities of their gymnasts. They’re presented as whiny little girls in need of “Daddy” coach to rein them in.

    And even Gabby’s nickname, the “Flying Squirrel,” evokes an image of a rabid, out of control animal that defies rationality. It’s a much more demeaning nickname, than say, the “Awesome Dawesome.”

    Good article. It articulates a gut feeling I’ve had the whole time I’ve been watching the trials and the Olympics.

  16. Clarissa July 30, 2012 at 3:04 PM #

    So glad to read this article! While watching the tennis match between Sharapova and Peer yesterday ALL the announcers did was compare her serve to Serena, compare her “discipline and focus” to Serena’s. The entire game.

  17. Scr0oge July 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM #

    i don’t know about the williams’ sisters point (especially serena)… gabby is young and was unexpected and there were def undertones of favoritism from the commentators, but black women consistently dominate most women’s sports in the olympics except like swimming and do not get negatively criticized

  18. amy July 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM #

    Another thing I noticed was that when they asked Bela to talk about each of the girls we got a lot of “she’s really intelligent, what a great mind,” and “she’s a fierce and serious competitor” or whatever (I forget exactly) but as that was all going on I was wondering what he’d say about Gabby, and sure enough it was about her cheerfulness and smile and all that. Now, of course there’s nothing wrong with being liked for your positivity, but like most subtle racism, it being a lack of any real substantive thing to say about her is more obvious when you see it in aggregate with the rest of the coverage. A million little coincidences, right? Each one of them easily explained away individually? Or a death by a thousand papercuts.

    • crunktastic July 30, 2012 at 4:12 PM #

      I saw the SAME thing with the Bela interview. He called her a “butterfly” but didn’t say anything about either her intelligence or athletic ability. Thanks for bringing it up. I think your observations is spot on.

  19. K July 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM #

    I love Gabby’s gymnastics & am infuriated by how the media has been treating her since Nationals. They give Jordyn the benefit of the doubt, every time, & are harsh on Gabby (who seems like a lot of fun, too. Ohmigosh her interview after Trials was one of the best things ever. She…how could anyone not love this kid?)

    Kyla isn’t getting the same treatment I think a) because she isn’t a threat and b) because, well, she’s ethnically ambiguous. But a lot of people are seeing Gabby as unseating Jordyn, & gymnastics isn’t like that. She’s having the better meet.

    (Speaking of NBC’s casual racism, holy crap. Trials. All the alternates are WoC, though we didn’t see any of their routines except Anna Li’s bars, & they showed someone taping her ankle or something while Sabrina Vega did floor–but we saw every moment of Nastia’s splatfest)

  20. Kwame Holmes July 30, 2012 at 5:26 PM #

    I completely agree with the analysis of Gabby’s “beautiful smile” which, for the record *is gorgeous.* But I actually disagree with your assessment of the gymnastics. It has to be said, that Gabby Douglas was overscored on floor and Jordyn Wieber was severely underscored on floor and beam. Yes, both Gabby and Jordyn went out of bounds. But Gabby landed, very far out of bounds. She actually took two big steps, turned around out of bounds and had to re-enter the floor. That’s a big-time error, each of those steps she took out of bounds should have been a .1-.3 deduction. And I don’t understand what the judges did to Wieber on beam. They took the points off for her error, but they didn’t give her any of the combination bonus she usually gets. Meanwhile in the later rounds they gave combination bonus to two russian gymnasts who had multiple, bigger balance checks and the same to two romanians. In fact, the pro-Romanian and Russian bias was so severe I thought we were back in the 1988 Seoul Olympics or as I think of it, the Cold War’s Last Gasp Olympiad. I take nothing away from Gabby, clearly I adore her. And I agree that the media coverage of her as an unstable, shaky performer has been ridiculous (especially given Jordyn’s many mis-steps at trials. But Jordyn Wieber was robbed on a bunch of fronts yesterday, and I’m not sure what happened. Still, its a great piece.

    • RML July 31, 2012 at 1:08 PM #

      Wieber wasn’t robbed in any way. She missed her dance elements on floor, so didn’t get her full difficulty, and still scored well enough to make the floor final. And on beam, not only has every gymnastics fan been saying all year that her major series should not receive credit because she has no flight in the “front handspring” and takes too long to connect, but the judges flatly told her coach during training that *she would not be given the connections*. And they didn’t give her the connections, as promised, which destroyed her difficulty score. She lost .4 on the fhs-back full-bhs connection and then she didn’t do her turn combination (another .1) and they very likely didn’t credit her L turn because she dropped her heel early. Her scores were absolutely fair. The problem is that she’d been massively OVERscored all year in domestic competition.

      In addition, Gabby absolutely wasn’t overscored on floor. She got a 13.7. That’s a horrible score. Her OOB cost her .3 neutral deduction, she lost .1 in her D score for not connecting the stag leap, and the steps cost her another .8, which is the maximum that can be deducted for landing faults without a fall. That’s over a point off on a pass she can do without deduction. She was just so far ahead of Wieber already that it didn’t matter.

      Please pay less attention to the NBC commentators. They are completely full of it. There were a few overscores in the later sessions (Romania’s Catalina Ponor was given a huge gift on beam) but that has no bearing on the scoring in the US girls’ session, which was fairly spot on.

    • Roger August 1, 2012 at 6:18 PM #

      You are living on fantasy island. Gabby is much more than a smile, she carried the whole team on her back last night. Gaby completed 1/3 of the routines, while receiving scores in the high 1500. Jordan failed to qaulify. She was not robbed, Gabby just out performed her…that simple.

  21. Girl Replanted July 30, 2012 at 5:31 PM #

    You have articulated my “gut” feeling as I was watching too. Sometimes subtle (like picking apart routines) which commentators seem to do for all, but then more glaring examples like not showing her stats and cropping her out of a photo. Similar dynamic happened with the mens swimming team (4×1) relay. All the white guys got interesting questions, the Black man got a question about his struggles and “what it means to be here.” And the interviewer stood in front of him, blocking him from camera view while she talked to the other three.

    • Tracy August 1, 2012 at 10:17 AM #

      YES!!!! I noticed this to and I was so pissed. You could see his face. Huge just looked so tired of it.

  22. mattmayhem July 30, 2012 at 5:45 PM #

    Thank you for this great article. I don’t usually watch gymnastics but was drawn in by Gabby Douglas Sunday night. I noticed immediately that the coverage on Gabby focused on the negative. Before she even started the male commentator couldn’t stop harping on her perceived nerves and how bad she would do if she lost focus as he said she was prone to do. He really set a negative tone surrounding her performance while doing just the opposite and providing nothing but praise and optimism for her teammates.
    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that noticed the actions of the commentators towards Gabby. There was a definite sense of disappointment that Gabby made the all around finals in place of Jordyn and a feeling that Gabby didn’t deserve to be there. All I can say is, Go Team USA! and Go Gabby!!!

  23. raganfox July 30, 2012 at 5:47 PM #

    I’ve been watching gymnastics all year long and have major problems with this blogger’s claims Let me revise that statement. I disagree with the first 2/3rds of the article and could have been persuaded by the smile argument had the blogger spent more time developing her claim. Here’s what the author doesn’t tell you: Nobody was surprised Gabi made it to the finals. As the commentators explained, Gabi and Jordyn have been going back-and-forth with victories all year. What the blogger doesn’t say is that NBC’s analysts kept suggesting that ALLY metaphorically stole the second spot, NOT Gabi. Here’s the rub: ALLY WON THE WHOLE PRELIM, as in NUMBER ONE of ALL WOMEN competing in the all-around, yet coverage made it seem as though Gabi was the actual victor and Ally snuck into the second spot. Ally did NOT get the longest post-show interview, despite WINNING FIRST PLACE the first day. The victory was the more notable in a televised world where they market and almost exclusively focus on expected victors. NOBODY SAW ALLY’S FINISH COMING. So much of the coverage was based on EXPECTATION and shattered expectations (both good and bad), as it is in EVERY Olympic sport. They frame their stories and questions based on how people have been competing all year. All commentary I’ve seen has painted the all-around race for gold as between Gabi and Jordyn. Last night’s focus on Jordyn’s defeat had more to do with the bigger picture, namely that the WORLD CHAMPION/favorite-by-default, who didn’t have a single major catastrophe (or red mark), wouldn’t be competing in the all-around final because the RULES SUCK. I’ve been watching the same commentators talking about these women since Nationals. I’m open to racism affecting Olympics discourse but do not find this article compelling. I’m open to counterpoints and truly don’t mean to troll.

    I actually went back and re-watched the women’s prelims because I wanted to see if my initial reaction to this blog was accurate. Some things you should know: 1) Ally and Jordyn are best friends. They have trained together since they were little girls. The stories of Ally’s unexpected victory and Jordyn’s unexpected defeat were intimately entwined. 2) Once again, mistakes on FLOOR EXERCISE were more harshly critiqued because floor was the FINAL apparatus and scores on floor would determine which two of the three American women would advance. In other words, the blogger cherry picks information and then divorces important bits of context to support her claim. 3) Gabi’s mistake was, hands down, the biggest error any of the 3 women vying for all-around made during the entire preliminary competition. To put things into perspective, Gabi was ahead of Jordyn (who was second place going into the final rotation) by over an ENTIRE POINT going into floor. Jordy’s wobble on beam was a few tenths of a deduction, Gabi’s MULTIPLE steps out of bounds and botched landing resulted in nearly a full point of deductions. “Ew! That was a huge deduction. It wasn’t just one foot out of bounds. Both feet were out of bounds, plus TWO 3/10th steps, almost a point,” they explained, and that’s ALL they said about it during the routine. In floor, you incur additional deductions when both feet go out of bounds. The commentary was especially pointed at that particular time because that single but significant error potentially cost Gabi the spot everyone assumed she would earn. 4) Only 3 people were interviewed directly after the meet. Ally was first because she won the ENTIRE day. Ally’s interview was 57 seconds long. Gabi came in second and got an interview that was 15 seconds longer than Ally’s, despite the fact that she came in second under Ally. Jordyn, the reigning world champ and favorite to win gold, came in FOURTH overall but won’t be able to compete in the all-around finals. Jordyn got a 54-second interview. Let me give you an example of commentary about Gabi earlier in the pre-lims. This is, word for word, what the analysts said during her vault: “Here is Gabi Douglas. She could become one of the faces of these games. She said she just needs to trust herself. Another mind-blowing vault! Even better than the one we just saw from Ally Raisman. A little off-center on the landing, but that is going to score higher than the highest score we’ve seen in vaulting so far in the competition. There are a number of gymnasts who do twists, but SHE goes ALL THE WAY AROUND. Look at her left hand guard. It opened up in the middle, but she had the patience and belief in herself to not let it distract her. The score for Gabi Douglas is a tenth better than her teammate, a 15.9.” I could transcribe the commentary for each of the 4 but this one is pretty representative. During her beam competition, they went on and on about Gabi’s charm and playfulness, then went on to say, “She has all of the gymnastics qualities that make for the VERY BEST. She’s able to do some of the most intricate skills in the world.” They then BRIEFLY discussed her fall on beam at nationals. I’ve been watching gymnastics all year and can say, without reservation, Gabi is one of the more inconsistent women on the US team, which, incidentally is characterized BY ITS CONSISTENCY. When she’s on, she’s unbeatable. When she’s off, she’s off. As they said last night, “”If Gabi is on, she is not just world class, she can battle for the Olympic gold in the all-around, but when she’s off, things can get messy really quick.” I can also tell you that similar commentary about inconsistent performers with the potential for greatness like figure skater Sasha Cohen has been infinitely more negative.

    I also believe that leaders in the field get more questions about their mistakes and shortcomings, while the media focuses on the unexpected triumph of underdogs. This is par for the course in sports. On a grander scale, similar tropes may be racialized, I just don’t believe that’s happening here and, if it is, the blogger hasn’t done a good job supporting the argument.

    • feminist gymnastics fan July 30, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

      One claim here is a little innacurate. Raisman didn’t qualify first. Viktoria Komova did. Raisman was in first at the end of the subdivision she competed in.

      Otherwise this comment is pretty accurate. Honestly when I read this blog post it was evident that the poster does not know much about gymnastics and isn’t really qualified to make their claims.

      • feminist gymnastics fan July 30, 2012 at 8:21 PM #

        I think I should clarify this. The smile politics part probably does have merit, and is definitely worth looking into in the context of gymnastics, where a smile is a big part of a female gymnast’s popular image.

    • hope July 31, 2012 at 12:03 PM #

      I’m glad you posted this, raganfox. I read it last night, and after I just finished watching the team finals today, I had to just come back and give you credit for a thoughtful response to the post. I agree there may be problems in the media coverage, and the “smile politics” brings up an interesting point… however, Gabby earned a ton of coverage today (in the online NBC broadcast) and the commentators seemed pretty fair to me, bringing up her inconsistency a bit, but overwhelmingly pointing out how strong and solid she looked throughout the day. Like I said, while some of the issues may be legitimate, this article does a poor job of focusing on the legitimate claims while dramatizing what seems to me like typical coverage of Aly’s surprise performance/earning the AA spot.

    • Nacala August 1, 2012 at 9:21 AM #

      This might be a minor issue but if you’ve been watching gymnastics all year why didn’t you spell Gabby’s name correctly? What’s the point of writing such a long, detailed response but not taking the type to spell the subject’s name correctly?

      • Natasha August 1, 2012 at 10:21 AM #

        Thank you for this. I was waiting for someone to point this out and none of th epople who congratulated Ragan did! This is EXACTLY what the subtle racism looks like. I harken back to a previous poster’s comment. An individual coincidence or death by a thousand paper cuts. Thanks for giving her one more!

      • hope August 1, 2012 at 1:26 PM #

        She spelled Aly’s name incorrectly as well. I think it’s interesting that is the argument you choose to make, rather than addressing any of her other (well-thought out points). It’s easy to jump up and say “racism!” instead of asking questions and trying to get more information. The latter, I feel, would be more beneficial to opening a true dialogue about this situation.

    • Clarence Gaines (@ClarenceGaines2) August 1, 2012 at 5:25 PM #

      Glad you presented a different & accurate view.

  24. Alisha M.Gray (@ZenMamaPolitic) July 30, 2012 at 5:51 PM #

    @ZenMamaPolitic I had to way in on this; especialy since Gabby hails from the same area that I am from~Hampton Roads, VA. These are called the ‘Seven Cities’ where we are from for a reason. Seven for luck, Seven for Egyptian Spirituality, and Seven for Synchronicity and Unity. However; we have dealt with a great deal of problems within the past that were a direct result of ‘thwarted access’. This ‘acceptab;e’ access is well known, where we come from; which is why we fought hard against it. And in many cases..we won. There is no doubt that I experienced what Gabby is going through while in school; as well as many other African American children. Always being one of the only African American students in many classes, and in Gifted And Talented Education Schools, gave me an early insight into what prescence of mind was going to be tolerated. I will never forget the day that a White teacher took for granted that I would want to work with one of the only African American students within my GIfted and Talented School Classroom. It was difficult to tell which was one of us was more angry or embarrassed the most. In addition; this assumption is often made by some within VA communities; as we struggled to ‘force’d diversity, and do away with de-facto segregated cultures (although they still exist). And, even with this…the one thing that VA did offer to all of us was..the opportunity.Believe it or not..this is one of the reasons that we were able to get anywhere. Not because someone gave us an ‘Affirmative Action’ Olympics pass. I find that difficult to believe.

    And you are correct. We are often used to that type of passive aggressive ignoring, commodifying, or silently belittling African American women in particular. I mean, come on..’Did you truly expect for them to highlight her diversity, and how difficult has been for her family to get her there?’ It would have been nice; yet still a distant dream. Although; I can state that VA (especially African American persons there), will stand up and get pass racist ideology and politics, we still have a long way to go. Politeness has been a stand in for dealing with racist practices since slavery. Eventhough; racism is becoming more submissive and diversive, many things are stil the same. We cannot forget that Gabby is still very young, and is more than likely genuinely happy to get this opportunity; thus she does not wish to ‘push any buttons’. And acknowledging racial bias just simply isn’t a portion of the agenda for this Olympics. That is ‘our’ function as activists to ensure that there is no further objectification of African American and multi-racial contestants. I personally am genuinely impressed by her efforts, and most definitely applaud them with true diligence.

  25. crunktastic July 30, 2012 at 6:48 PM #

    I like this break down of Jordyn’s performance.

    • Kay August 1, 2012 at 4:09 PM #


  26. Bob Lamm July 30, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

    I didn’t see any of the gymnastics and can’t comment on that. But there is a LONG history of “smile politics” aimed at all oppressed groups, but especially African Americans and women. The oppressed must always “smile” to show those with power that they are really happy being down on the bottom and never, never will get angry or fight for social justice. And it’s always viewed as dangerous when a member of an oppressed group doesn’t smile enough.

  27. H. Veal July 30, 2012 at 9:18 PM #

    Where to begin? First of all, intelligently done. Second of all, I agree with everything you have stated, and I love the phrase “smile politics”. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Serena and Venus Williams, Ali… all of the greats have (or had) it, that smile. Outwardly they all smile while inwardly they have to toil with that Ellison demon of Twoness. The commentators are so bad with tennis that my wife watches the events with the volume on mute in most cases.

    I have a daughter that competes in gymnastics and as we try to share certain nuances with her that she will continue to face. We get a little resistance from her about our “wayward” disposition. But she’s listening. Ultimately, we simply teach her that when the lights are on, she always has to be the best she can be and leave it all in the gym.

    If the stars align, Gabby will get Gold, at the end of the day, not matter how much they wanted the winner to be America’s Fav, that will not happen this year. To Gabby, keep smiling, while you KILLIN’ EM!!! It’s the best medicine.

  28. Dave July 31, 2012 at 8:56 AM #

    This is a great post. I happened on to the gymnastics coverage and everything you say about the smile politics I felt in my gut; and I believe my gut when it comes to things like this. I also noticed (like someone up thread) that the coach/trainer used audience comforting adjectives to describe Douglass’. Perhaps it was a gymnast thing I do not understand (possible) but the contrast to what he said about the other women was striking. And the politics of her smile and what people want it to affirm for them I understand to well. I think she does too and that makes me smile because it means she may understand her power potential. Regardless, race does matter, and I feel a since of solidarity with this young woman.

    I am indeed cheering for her, and I hope her All-American smile ends up on a Wheaties box.

  29. Lynwellyn Gudger July 31, 2012 at 10:13 AM #

    I stopped watching after the opening ceremony. Western “civilization’s” colonial legacy is strong. The announcers were venomous in their speech about smaller competing nations. The opening ceremony would have been enjoyable, but their comments soured the experience.

  30. Jake July 31, 2012 at 6:14 PM #

    NBC is not doing very well at hiding cultural bias’ in general (not that many expected them to). If you caught the synchro men’s diving, they kept referring to the soon-to-be silver medalists as “the mexicans” instead of by their actual names, as with all the other competitors. Not to mention that whole piece about (russian female) gymnasts as ‘diva’s who need (male) trainers to ‘reign them in’. All in all, #nbcfail ‘s are painting the US as culturally incompetent jerks.

    • Jenna August 1, 2012 at 12:42 AM #

      I noticed that as well, but they’re from Mexico. They’re Mexicans. Get over it. This is the Olympics. There are many competitors who are classified by their country. Did you watch the women’s synchro diving? They referred to the Mexican divers repeatedly by their names. Honestly, all of you are thinking too much into this subject. The fact that you’re all obsessed with race simply blows my mind. They’re athletes. There is always going to be favoritism. NBC wants the best story to get the best ratings. This is simple logic. Any of you who can sit there and say that Gabby got less attention than the other four simply are wearing blindfolds. How many times did they run the story about Gabby’s mother’s financial troubles and how she had to move away from home to train and her desire to quit because of homesickness. Give me a break. She got plenty of coverage. Jordyn not making the AA finals is a big story. She is the reigning world champion. This story will make heads turn. Let’s think about how much coverage Aly would’ve received if she had not made the AA finals. She is obviously just as qualified and just as experienced. However, after watching the Olympic trials, it was ALL about Jordyn and Gabby fighting for the top spot. From their coverage, I would have had no idea how talented Aly was until the start of these Olympic games. Both Gabby and Jordyn got plenty of attention.

      I’d also like to say how much coverage was devoted to John Orozco and Danell Leyva. I think we can all agree that they are not white. What about the other three white guys on the team? I rarely hear anything about them. Why is that? Is it because they’re white? No, it’s because the pressure was not on them. Orozco and Leyva were expected to lead Team USA to gold. I can sit here and argue racism against white people. Would you actually take that argument seriously?

      Please don’t use the race card. It’s annoying and unnecessary.

    • taniadrussell (@taniadrussell) August 2, 2012 at 9:36 PM #

      I am so glad to read this comment. I thought I was the only one on the planet that noticed that “The Mexicans” crap. Ridiculousness.

  31. Reggie July 31, 2012 at 9:25 PM #

    Me too. Love Gabby she’s amazing. I feel like the don’t cover Gabby like they do the others. We have to continue to lift her up. So interested in knowing how she feels about her treatment. Wish they would give her the credit she deserves not because she’s Black, but because she’s a damn good athlete. Ive noticed that he other girls don’t hug her like they hug each other. And a side note, I don’t think NBC has done a good job of covering the women competitions.

    • Tracy Johnson July 31, 2012 at 10:33 PM #

      Right again – I’ve noticed that since the first competition. I am not one of those people who intentionally look for inequalities among the races. Gabby is a real trooper.

    • Nyla August 1, 2012 at 8:29 AM #

      I noticed this too! I also noticed how they place Gabby in group media interviews (at the end or not there at all). Then when they talk about highlights of the gymnast when talking to Gabby they show other athletes. Also, after she won the all around in San Jose you barely heard any coverage on her. I’m disgusted! PURE covert racism at its best being perpetuated by the media.

  32. tactlessgrace July 31, 2012 at 9:47 PM #

    I agree with your points- and just in general, I noticed a lot of pre-filmed posing and posturing the girls had to do during commercial breaks or introductions to the event. It was kind of sadly laughable- making them into “sexy” athletes. Because that matters. I didn’t see the end coverage of this segment, but with all the critique around how Jordyn shouldn’t cry on television, and how the cameras did an excellent job of juxtaposing the heartbreaking loss against Aly’s triumph, I’m not surprised Gabby got the shaft. And she smiles and keeps going, because if she didn’t, you’d be sure she’d grab the headlines real quick.

  33. Tracy July 31, 2012 at 9:48 PM #

    Oh my goodness I thought it was just me. Even tonight they did not focus on her and she scored better than everyone on almost everything!

    • crunktastic July 31, 2012 at 9:57 PM #

      I realized tonight that Gabby is the only team member to do all four events for the team gold. And yet, after the floor routine, which was excellent, they gave Jordyn all the praise, even though Gabby’s score was higher. Ugh.

      And you are right. During the medal ceremony, the camera was literally zoomed in on Jordyn’s face, celebrating the fact that she got the medal that they (the media) feel she’s entitled too. It not so subtly communicates that they (the media) think Gabby doesn’t belong. And to that I say, fuck ’em.

  34. crunktastic July 31, 2012 at 10:08 PM #

    Gabby is 20% (1/5) of TeamUSA, and yet because she competes in all four events, she earned 33% (1/3) of the score that got #TeamUSA the gold. I could say more, but I think the numbers speak for themselves. #TeamGabby all.the.way.

    • M August 5, 2012 at 9:49 PM #

      It didn’t start this morning, either. If you look at Gabby’s routines on YouTube from the Olympic Trials and the national championships, you’ll see the same smack in the comments. I thought (hoped?) a former Olympian like Tim Daggett would be able to do a little better, but I guess as an Af-Am former high-school competitive gymnast myself I shouldn’t be a bit surprised.

      Anybody else remember/read the way this happened to Debi Thomas v. Katarina Witt, in figure skating, as well as the Williams sisters?

      In any event, Gabby’s a double gold medal winner now, with a $90 million Kellogg’s endorsement.


  35. Tracy Johnson July 31, 2012 at 10:18 PM #

    I agree with you 100%. I could not have written this any better. I asked my husband did appear that the commentator was unduly harsh on Gabby and it appeared that he was jinxing her by repeatedly saying “whe messes up she really messes up”. Go Gabby!!!!!! As a woman of color, I am so PROUD of you. :))))))

  36. Global Woman July 31, 2012 at 11:10 PM #

    Great article! I thought I was alone in witnessing the obvious. Frankly, I got so enraged at NBC’s racist coverage that I decided to watch the live stream. For those who do not believe the coverage is racist, view NBC’s coverage of John Orozco. My heart broke for him. I literally wept because I know how devastated he was–but all they showed were his failures. NBC didn’t even show other competitors from other countries. While watching the UK streamed content it was clear that many favorites fell and fell short. Orozco’s mishaps were not even important enough to be remarked on by the British commentators. Yet the American crew acted as if he was out of place and out of his mind for trying to compete with the Caucasians. I was happy to find a way to access the live coverage straight from the UK via the internet! Today I watched Gabby and the women’s finals and I wept again. With joy! The commentators were so gracious and proud of ALL of the women from all countries. They were smitten with Douglas especially. America is a sick and sad little country. Most people are not aware of this because they profit off of this racism or they are desensitized to it. But when you change your geography, your perspective on the world and yourself changes. I am thrilled not to have to watch the Olympics filtered through racists.

    • Doc Marten August 1, 2012 at 3:21 PM #

      That’s exactly why I also avoid NBC’s “coverage” like the plague. There are live feeds from the BBC all over the Internet. Also, check out Expat Shield if you want to watch the live feed straight from the BBC. Don’t even bother with NBC’s bullshit. Watch REAL gymnastics coverage from people who’ve been doing it a hell of a lot longer. The BBC is giving Gabby the credit she deserves for her awesome performance last night.

    • Stacy August 3, 2012 at 11:16 PM #

      About the coverage of Orozco: Thank you! During his pommel horse routine, the main NBC commentator kept saying it was “catastrophic” and it couldn’t be overestimated how badly he did. And then at the end, Orozco took the bronze medal. So, not so catastrophic after all?

      • M August 5, 2012 at 9:52 PM #

        Not so catastrophic after all, bitterLOL.
        And they’ll act like they never said any of it.


  37. Gainee July 31, 2012 at 11:45 PM #

    Thank you! I finally found someone(s) who said what I’ve been thinking!

  38. T August 1, 2012 at 7:41 AM #

    THANK YOU for this post. THANK YOU. I thought I was being overly sensitive. The commentators are always biased in some way at every olympics. But last night during the gymnastics coverage I was just downright mad. The favoritism was just so clear on the comments and on screen time. I also couldn’t help read into the behaviors within the team – they say they are close knit and maybe they are. Perhaps Gabby is more the independent type, but the body language felt uncomfortable. There were so many times it looked like Gabby was trying to inch in line with the other girls (ie: on the podium)…but again, maybe I am looking into the body language too much.

    There were so many times I just wanted to throw my remote at the TV. At some point when talking about Gabby’s journey to the olympics they said something like “She swapped gyms and her family to realize her dream”. Swapped her family? WTF. So disrespectful. The focus on the Gabby’s mistakes rather than her successes – for a routine that for a layperson (like myself) that looked flawless. The only thing positive they can say about her is her smile (which is fantastic)? Do the commentators even hear themselves?

    • Kay August 1, 2012 at 4:04 PM #


  39. Erica Tucker August 1, 2012 at 8:30 AM #

    When I watched last night I felt all the same things you did, but as I mother I kept looking for the image that wasn’t there (at first)…Gabby’s family. As a parent, with sports obsessed kids. I’m there at everything. Karate, soccer, dance, you name we’re there. So when I saw the camera on Jordyn’s mother and their ad nauseum account of how talking to Jordyn after her loss was the hardest thing in the world, and Aly’s parents (who are so cute) going crazy for her. I kept wondering where is Gabby’s mother? Where are her sisters? Where are her crazy aunts and cousins at? Eventually they showed them, but by that time she had already performed two events. I kept feeling that they were pushing the narrative of a non-existent home for Gabby. Her family wasn’t upper class enough, or portrayed the ideal family that was good for the narrative that the US Olympics has to have. Throughout the beginning of the broadcast the song lyrics “I feel like a motherless chile….I feel like a motherless chile.” That’s what NBC and the media wanted us to believe she is. But during a commercial break, there was a commercial about Gabby and her mother…I cried like a baby. Finally a positive narrative that showed how phenomenal her family is.

    ( There’s another video on the Christian Science website, and her mom is INCREDIBLE!)

    The narrative of black women in the country, and black mothers being invisible, still persists, almost 50 years after the Moynihan report. The media continues to write a narrative that black women are to blame for the woes of the world, and our children still pay the price.

    I’m brainstorming now to try and change that.

    • The Curvy Socialite August 1, 2012 at 11:29 AM #

      The sad part is that very little coverage has been given to Gabby’s family during the Olympics; We don’t know what Gabby’s mom and sisters said to her when she qualified for the All-Around. We also don’t know how her Dad felt (who is a serviceman in the US military). Her story isn’t “important” because she wasn’t the new face of the sport. It’s really sad in general that they’re not focusing on them as a team. The belief is that this is a post racial society (which it isn’t) but so little is done by the media to change that perception.

  40. Steve August 1, 2012 at 8:38 AM #

    Oh my God. Did you all watch the same coverage that I did? Gabby gets huge Kudos from the press and was totally overscored after her major gaff on the floor and Jordyn was way underscored for her floor. All this talk of racism is riduculous. If anything, the judges were biased in favor of Gabby and Gabby is the “media darling.”

    • taniadrussell (@taniadrussell) August 2, 2012 at 9:41 PM #

      Yep sounds like we saw different coverage. On NBC (American coverage) I saw the Jordyn Wieber show and how devastating it was that she didn’t make the individuals and what a trooper she was for lifting the American team to Gold. In fact I had to look up how to spell Jordyn’s last name just now and the first article that came up is how even with the All Around Gold medal, Gabby can’t say she’s a better gymnast than Jordyn Wieber.

      So no: I have not seen all of this Gabby bias that you speak of.

  41. Reuben Eckels August 1, 2012 at 9:19 AM #

    What is all the commotion about? If she and other black athletes don’t complain about and tolorate the bias than whose fought is it? There use to be a time when black parents and the athletes spoke up about such bias but now they just smile and take the crap that these folks dish out. I undestand she is a young girl but I have a young daughter who looks just like Gabby and if that was my baby at the first chance I got I would have discussed Bela’ comments and the way the media was treating my baby. This is not a post racial era and black folk still have to speak out with courage when they are on the world stage like the two brothers with their black gloves did.

  42. E August 1, 2012 at 9:21 AM #

    These are my sentiments exactly! I have been incensed since the Olympic Trials. All of the focus was STILL put on Wieber although Gabby was the winner.

    • sassyg August 1, 2012 at 12:22 PM #

      The bias in the coverage only got worse after Jordan Wieber failed to qualify for the individual competition and the commentators’ obsession with Weiber was even more evident last night and until the superior performances by Gabby and McKayla forced the commentators to focus more more attention to them. The whole team was wonderful and should be proud but the coverage by NBC – not so much!

  43. The Curvy Socialite August 1, 2012 at 11:24 AM #

    Gymnastics is a very subjective sport but not for the reasons people think. When I read your post I had to smile because someone saw what I was talking about. A former gymnast myself, I used to tell folks that it didn’t matter how well I did because at the end of the day my other teammates who were white would get all the fan fare. At the end of the day, I couldn’t do badly and cost the team points, but me doing well was just to add to the team.

    Many former gymnasts of color feel that way. Look at Diahnne Durham, a former Karolyite (coached by Bela Karolyi) and teammate of Mary Lou Retton. She in essence was overlooked when it came to the 84 Olympics despite being the national champion. They say it was because she didn’t compete in the previous Worlds (due to injury) but as with others who were injured then, petitions were put in and accepted on their behalf. Not the case with Diahnne.

    For the argument about inconsistency…In the last 2 years, Gabby has worked on that and has been on her game. When I knew she was ready to be the best was after watching her during this year’s American Cup. Working with USA GYmnastics at this year’s event in New York, I got to see Gabby and what she was about. She competed as part of an exhibition (her scores didn’t count) but would have won the competition with a higher all around score than Jordyn. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Jordyn as well. Her biggest talent is being able to hit when the time is right (most of the time). Aly Raisman does more difficult gymnastics but until the Olympics wasn’t really on the layman’s radar because she wasn’t who USAG chose to be the face of the sport. She isn’t from the middle of America or a small town (Raisman’s from the Boston area) and she’s Jewish (and has no problem letting the world know either– her floor music is Hava Nagila). She’s not as wholesome as Jordyn is to the American public. And we all know that Gabby isn’t for obvious reasons.

    Personally I was shocked Gabby was getting as much camera time as she was. Even Dominique Dawes (member of the Magnificent 7 back in 1996) didn’t get quarter of the camera time. I thought maybe it was the media’s way of trying to say we are now in a post racial America (though the way the President is treated sometimes you’d think otherwise). But in the end, even for a fleeting moment, Gabby was recognized for being one of the best. I wish her luck in the All Around and event finals. I want her to bring home the gold and show the world how talented a girl from Virginia can be.

    • Dee August 5, 2012 at 1:11 PM #

      You bring up an excellent point. I was weirded out by the NBC coverage of all the gymnasts of color, both men and women.
      But if you’re going to talk bias, how many world-known gymnasts (and this is the same in figure skating) are Jewish? Not that they don’t train and compete, just that they start out with a few points off that no one ever talks about.
      Bias is all over the place and until we can chip away at the power structure that is white American status quo, we’ll keep seeing this again and again. Maybe when being white means being in the minority in a few years, things will change for the better.
      Her hair? Really? Komova’s was really distracting with strands flying all around her face and not a word was spoken. The American girls’ pony tails were all a little unkempt at times.
      SO peripheral and so sexist to comment on their appearance rather than their skill.

      • The Curvy Socialite August 19, 2012 at 12:15 AM #

        At the end of the day I realize people just like to have something to complain about. I was on the train the other day and heard people complaining about Aly Raisman’s choice of floor music. The woman complaining was also Jewish and felt that Aly was disrespecting Jews by “dancing” to Hava Nagilah. I’m like seriously?

        But you are right about Komova and the other gymnasts. McKayla Maroney’s “bun” wasn’t the neatest and no one said anything. Komova’s bangs were pulled back (hence the flyaways) and no one said anything. Haters like to hate. But they don’t have a gold medal and the endorsements coming in. So they need to just get over it.

  44. Meredith McDonald August 1, 2012 at 12:39 PM #

    Thank you for writing this. I noticed that the other team members did NOT include Gabby Thomas in hand holding, they stepped between her and the camera, and in general seemed to pretend that she was not there. I do not believe that the five of them are best friends as the press states; I believe it is the 4, and that Gabby has to power through it. My heart goes out to her. Hope she can feel it, and congratulations to HER.

    • Kay August 1, 2012 at 4:02 PM #


  45. Gracie August 1, 2012 at 12:41 PM #

    You got kyla Ross’ ethnicity wrong. She has stated that her father is African American and Japanese and her mother Filipino and puerto rican. Great article by the way 🙂

  46. Danielle August 1, 2012 at 2:04 PM #

    I caught everything you stated in the article as well. They also left Gabby’s picture out of this article under the athlete’s section. http://www.london2012.com/news/articles/team-usa-climb-top-step-the-podium.html. I tweeted @London2012 about this as there was no way to contact the author. This is just ridiculous!

  47. Wally-O August 1, 2012 at 3:59 PM #

    you said girls of color and then you say “Kyla Ross, who is of African-American, Japanese, Puerto Rican, and Dominican descent”. How can a person be labeled all of those things? But you said “descent” so i’m not hating. What I am hating on are the folks who are super prideful about their “blackness” to the point they single out Gabby as the reason why team USA triumphed. You might not realize it, but its very detrimental to race relations and how whites view blacks. All this does is make whites scratch their heads. Not redneck white folks, I’m talking those progressive ones who actually want to better society. Its foolish behavior on our part. Just because she’s black and did her fair share in the team landscape, it’s disrespectful to the other women on the team & all Americans as well for her to be singled out. What has happened here is that blacks see her as the “black face” & push for her. Push for the entire unit. Push for unity. Singling out is mental segregation. Let’s remember we are in this together to move forward. Respect and God Bless.

    • Dennis August 2, 2012 at 10:01 PM #

      Couldn’t agree more, well said.

      • Wally-O August 3, 2012 at 8:29 AM #

        Thank you! Its time to focus on our progression.

  48. Kay August 1, 2012 at 4:00 PM #

    OMG, Thanks so much for this.. I observed the same thing!! And is it just me or does it seem as though Jordyn is arrogant and has a chip on her shoulder when gabby approaches for a hug?

    • Wally-O August 3, 2012 at 9:03 AM #

      the dynamic of women’s gymnastics in the U.S. has always been like this. The teammates are actually competitors against one another as well as the rest of the world. It has little to do with race. i grew up in a gymnastics-crazed town and the girls are put on pedestals the moment people recognize their talents can be exploited. They’re brought up believing the are the darlings of the world and their egos lead them to act how you observed. They are simply competitors. Look how the Russians conveyed their team camaraderie in the all-around. Genuine hugs, excitement and all out support for one another. Look how they displayed actual love while awaiting the all around results. That’s real love.

  49. Star August 1, 2012 at 4:18 PM #


    1 Person Missing from This Photo….we have inundated the Arkansas Democrat Gazette with calls, emails, etc.

    Frank Sellone, Deputy Editor 501-378-3456

    Wally Hall, Sports Editor, http://www.arkansasonline.com/staff/wally-hall/

  50. Jennie August 1, 2012 at 4:50 PM #

    I have to say, I’m white, but I went out and googled this topic because I wanted to know if I was the only one who noticed this bias. Gabby IS being marginalized. It’s ridiculous. I loved her from the first moment I saw her compete on floor in the trials. She’s got amazing energy and sheer talent. They keep talking about beautiful lines… this girl HAS beautiful lines combined with power. And during these Olympics she has been completely consistent. She’s amazing. I hope she wins the all around. I don’t know what their problem is, we (white society) ought to be beyond this kind of childish pettiness. Gabby is beautiful and obviously winning because she worked hard and is talented. Give her the buzz she deserves! I have nothing against the other girls, they are great too, and I have noticed at least some effort on their part to include her, at once point I noticed Aly specifically reaching out to Gabby to bring her into the group. And while I love Jordyn to death and feel very bad for her and agree the rule is stupid, I have to say… the media seems a bit obsessed with her. Even in broadcasting her pain over broadcasting Gabby’s victory. I mean come on… really? Give the girl a break and give Gabby her due! Anyway… just wanted to say this. I posted on my facebook page also we’ll see if I get any responses.

    • imageis773 August 1, 2012 at 10:19 PM #

      Very simply, thanks for your open minded reply. Have a great day.

  51. Roger August 1, 2012 at 5:50 PM #

    Thought I was the only one sickened by how the media — NBC/PGI/Commentators — have given Gaby Douglas the finger during the last two days. This type of racism, given her results which carried the fab 5 to a gold medal, is sickening in the 21st century. Bottom line, when Gaby when the Gold they will be unable to ignore her anymore.

  52. Dee August 1, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

    Thank you so much for this well written article…I definitely agree! You are so on point of your observation and it is unfortunate that us once “little black girls” still endure this type of racism in 2012…with a black President in Office!! I was so upset by this rude and unfair treatment and looking for a forum to express my feelings, but I think you said it ALL…for all of us!! Again thank you and God Bless You for using this social forum to express what we are all thinking!! @ Gabby…You are the BEST Gabby and thank you for making us PROUD!!!

  53. tia August 2, 2012 at 12:46 PM #

    And you wonder why NBC Today Show got rid of Ann Curry!

  54. Dennis August 2, 2012 at 9:57 PM #

    I feel like this article is completely off base. I watched it all on the BBC which has the same coverage (video feed) but different commentators and if anyone was short changed airtime it was Aly, if I remember correctly only her floor routine was shown. Not only that but the discussion was about Aly going last in the events and getting higher scoring, knocking Jordyn out of the top two. And if anyone watched the Olympic trials you would know that Gabby had the only guaranteed spot on the Olympic team. Maybe I missed all this because I watched the coverage on the BBC and the English people arnt so obsessed with finding something to complain about, which in America is usually racism that isnt really there.

  55. LR August 2, 2012 at 10:36 PM #

    Black girls tend to smile more than non-Black girls. Whites and other races consider girls smiling to be slutty, even if they are attractive. It’s okay for Black girls to look attractive in public than non-Black girls.

  56. Sarah August 3, 2012 at 7:03 AM #

    Wow, this is the complete opposite to what I was thinking. I feel Gabby’s routine’s were overscored in the AA final. She is good, yes, but Komova was equally astounding, and a beautiful and graceful gymnast (something Gabby is not). I did not feel Gabby deserved to win gold over Komova, especially after Komova’s floor routine – she gave the performance of her life.

  57. Sarah August 3, 2012 at 7:07 AM #

    I would like to add that I watched coverage on BBC and they are far more positive about every single gymnast, a far cry from NBC (whose commentaries are a joke).

  58. Whitey Will August 3, 2012 at 7:29 AM #

    I completely disagree with your article. You are obviously looking for racism in any and all things. There absolutely is not a collective effort of all whites to suppress black women. It is absurd that you would even suggest such a hateful conspiracy. I guess if I were like you, I might say that your attitude is stereo typical. Lol

    • Wally-O August 3, 2012 at 8:47 AM #

      Agreed..as a black man, I feel that there is alot of reaching in this article & the blog’s followers just find infinite ways to show some sort of racism on NBC’s, Team USA’s part. The real racism in the coverage, if any, is very subtle and flies over most people’s heads. I’ll would go into detail but I feel like i’ll be talking to deaf ears.

  59. From Texas August 3, 2012 at 10:22 PM #

    I am not a Woman of Color, and I understand that my privilege blinds me to things that I do not realize or do not understand. I apologize for that in advance. That being said, the bias I noticed against Gabby was so blatant it was sickening, and I’m sure I missed a lot. I specifically noticed that although Aly’s parents were highlighted (and I get that, they were super cute and funny) as was Rita Weiber, Jordyn’s mother, Gabby’s mom and sister were seldom shown and they did not always announce who they were. We were supposed to automatically assume that they matched up to Gabby because she is African-American and so were they, as if no other African-American or African-British people could possibly afford to be there, or wouldn’t be interested, or something. I also did not know Gabby had a Dad because the media did not cover it on TV. I had to dig that up for myself. To some extent, I understand the World Champion not making the finals is a huge upset and disappointment, and I truly felt bad for Jordyn, who is a talented athlete. However, everyone was so concerned with talking about the upset and about consoling her that Gabby was completely overshadowed. I was also made very uncomfortable by her nickname of The Flying Squirrel. Why not Golden Gabby or Gabtastic or something catchy that didn’t liken a young African-American woman to an animal? SURELY someone connected with the news channel realized that was problematic?! Lastly, the thing that I found the most deeply disturbing was that as soon as Gabby’s medal ceremony was over, the first commercial that came on the TV was for some kind of vet show sitcom or something and it showed a monkey doing gymnastics. I know that they have had other commercials with animals pretending to do Olympic sports but I can’t even express how I felt seeing that; I thought it had a lot of horrible and sad implications and I was super taken aback by how they did the fade-in to it. I just felt so sick inside especially after having seen Gabby and her family be basically brushed aside this week.

    I hope I have expressed myself respectfully and that it is all right that i commented in this forum. Thank you very much for this article. With great respect, D.

    • Gina August 4, 2012 at 8:25 AM #

      you people are so WHACKED!!! I am of Indian decent…and look it! So I dont consider myself black, white, asian…just AMERICAN. This whole race thing keeps getting out of hand. I have watched soooo much coverage of the olympics on NBC and other stations, and without a doubt, Phelps and Franklin were the initial standouts in the commentary, WITH absolut merit. As far as Gabby, she was not the fav coming in, so of course she wouldn’t be as highlighted (SHE WAS DEFINITELY INCONSISTENT IN PRE-TRIALS…CHECK YOURSELF)!!! However, check out all the other coverage since the all-arounds, she’s now America’s sweetheart! Everyone, especially African Americans should take note of how great it is when she smiles!!!! It makes me smile!!!! I wish more athletes would smile and not appear to be cocky!! If it weren’t for an audience and the huge applause, they WOULDN’T have a reason to feel so good about themselves…WE validate that!!!

      I’m not sure how the “difficulty levels” are determined, but Gabby’s were always considered very difficult, however I didn’t really see any difference. I thought if anyone you all should be complaining about is how great Aly did and did not medal and it all seems to stem from the difficulty level on the vault!

      Black people need to remember (if reported “correctly”), you’re race only makes-up about 17% of the US, but you keep wanting to make it over 50%! I never see Mexican Americans complain (or for that fact Indian Americans) as much as you guys do!!!! Stop acting like you are such victims, just put your money where your mouth is and be great, stop complaining and playing victim.

      By the way, do you know as of yesterday, Gabby is on the front of the new Wheaties box????? -Poor little thing…they should be putting her in EVERY commerical and the face for EVERY product, I mean come on, she’s the best athlete EVER!!! Right???

    • Whitey Will August 6, 2012 at 3:33 PM #

      Dear Texas, WOW!!!! You likened, Gabby to the vet commercial where the monkey is doing gymnastics. You can’t possibly be serious. LMAO! What a “TROLL” you are to make that connection. And also to bring up the “missing dad” in the stands is all on you. I would have imagined he was working. IF I had even thought about it. The media showed Gabby’s mom crying with joy. They also defined who she was. Stop stretching so far to find racism you twit. Lol

  60. George Gagner August 4, 2012 at 11:14 AM #

    Wah wah wah. Perhaps the blogger should consider a few things. 1. In my personal experience, blacks are far more racially biased than whites. 2. Blacks make up only 12.6% of the US population but 75% plus of the athletes in most professional sports. Perhaps “whites” just like to root for the underdog in sports, namely, persons of Caucasian ancestry. 3. Just because a person wins, does not mean that we are obligated to “like” them, or that they should be popular, or receive massive endorsement income. 4. We have had over 50 years of affirmative action. How long will it be required? Perhaps “whites” are tires of it and the continuing, persistent whining about “white privilege”. Perhaps “blacks” should try competing in the business world as a white male, without the benefit of corporate policies that favor “women and minority owned businesses”. 5. Perhaps Gabby should try not to look like a grinning fool when she smiles. People who call it a “beautiful smile” are probably the same ones who blather on about how “beautiful” Michelle Obama (btw, the poster child, along with the President and Justice Sotomayor, for the harm that comes when affirmative action promotes mediocre people far above the level of their true competence) is when she constantly appears with inappropriate bare arms and apparel.

    • slice August 6, 2012 at 2:13 PM #


      What the hell does AA have to with Gabby Douglas and her win? If black people are “racially biased”, it’s because WHITE people have ALWAYS been racially biased AND downright racist as hell toward people of color, and have always the law to back them up to ENFORCE said racism! Considering that white people clearly had affirmative action/carte blanche for EVERYTHING they’re ever wanted/first chioce over EVERYBODY else for the first THREE HUNDRED years of this country’s existence, 49 of affirmative action for black folks/other folks of color is only a drop in the damn bucket. And no, Gabby does NOT look like a grinning fool when she smiles, so shut up with that nonsense!

      You sound EXACTLY like the typical arrogant, racist white person who is just “tired” of the fact that WHITE people aren’t running everything anymore and because you’re always been told that white people have to be first and foremost in everything, no matter how mediocre or unqualified some of them may be, but they still get that leg up because this is a white majority society that has ALWAYS been biased toward white people, claiming that they’re just better than everyone else/deserve more than anyone else on the planet simply BECAUSE they’re WHITE. So before you come on here talking this BS again, go look up this blog titled ‘RACISM 101″ right now!

      • Reuben Eckels August 6, 2012 at 3:04 PM #

        Slice, George and Gina are ignorant! For George affirmative action like welfare was started by conservatives and the biggest beneficiaries of both happen to be white women. To the Gina the self proclaimed Indian what difference does the percentage of the make up of blacks in America have to do with fairness of television coverage? What is stupid straw man argument to make. You and George show the racist you are by these stupid arguments. True Americans have the right to self describe themselves. We can call ourselves green American, black American, Native America or African-American. What is before the hyphen is about a culture but what comes after the hyphen describes our loyalty. That is why African-Americans even though they have been discriminated against have been so loyal to America that we have fought in every war with distinction and represented America so well in the Olympics that without them China and Russia would run away with the medal count.
        Idiots like you two, believe that being critical of bias media coverage is racism. LOL! Racism is blowing up churches, lynching people because of their color, creating Jim Crow laws to prohibit every right of one group of people based on race such ; not allowing blacks in certain areas of town, jobs, hospitals, schools or even cemeteries. It means redlining and unequal convictions and sentencing based on race. To point out the difference of coverage based on race is not racism or whining. Whining is rich billionaire white men crying about them paying more taxes. Crying is rich white boys who drive up to a school in BMW’s like Columbine and shooting folks because people made fun of them. Whining is a man who will go in a Sikh Temple and shoot people he does not know because he thinks they are Muslims who are taking his rights. Black folks not only have played with the hand we have been dealt but what we are mad about is whenever we play and win by the rules white conservatives make they want to change the rules. Let’s change the rules on voting because a black man got elected. Let’s change the constitution on marriage because hate gays. Let’s change the rules for immigrants who were born in this country because they are taking our jobs. Let’s change the rules on Mandates now that President Obama likes them we hate them even though mandate were always a white conservative idea. LOL! Those who support Gabby and are against the media coverage are not whining we are just saying treat the loyal African-American the same as you treat the other Americans.

      • Gina August 6, 2012 at 8:02 PM #

        read my FULL post, then reply….the point i was trying to make had to do with this original blog on lack of coverage on gabby and how the media was supposedly trying to make gabby’s smile into something negative.

        for you idiots who don’t understand the impact of a smile and its relationship to the olympics esp. gymnastics, google OLGA KORBUT

  61. Oscar August 6, 2012 at 11:08 AM #

    NBC pissed me the hell off…. they would show all the lil girls parents in the stand except for Gabby’s mom…. I was wondering where that girls momma was… a mother wld never miss out on London. It wasnt until the individual competition. That they showed gabbs mom. Poor girl looked motherless… BLACK PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN DAMN IT!!!!

    • Reuben Eckels August 6, 2012 at 8:34 PM #

      Gina, we did read your whole post you bigot. You did not just write about Gabby’s smile you brought in mess about blacks whining and only being a certain percentage of the population. Issues that had nothing to do with the topic you say you were trying to address. You also talked about how Gabby was not the favorite coming into the event but maybe you should have did a little reading on your own than just believe the bias media, because at the AT&T American Cup at Madison Square Garden in March, Douglas received the highest total all-around score in the women’s competition, ahead of her teammate and current world champion Jordyn Wieber. So she had just as much momentum going into this competition as anyone else. Oh, by the way you should have read your own post before writing you were only talking about her smile. You stated that blacks should be like Mexican Americans or Indian Americans and stop whining. How in the hell do you know the color of who is posting on this site? In fact there have been just as many people who say they are white on this site saying they agreed with the writer. I can understand you disagree with the post, we all are free to do that but you went a step further and let your hate come out.

  62. Joey Nemesi August 7, 2012 at 10:17 PM #

    I think that women’s gymnastics is a great event (I’m still amazed at the stuff these girls do.) However; I believe that by making this a race issue you take away from the true meaning of what Gabby did. Obviously the newscasters were going to focus on Wieber not making it because it was such a shock, where as Gabby (who is very talented) was favored to make it in. I do not believe that this is a “white and African-American” discussion, but rather an American girl participating on the greatest stage her sport offers and delivering inspired preformance on behalf of a country that supports her and is proud of the opportunity that she has. That’s how I feel, but what do I know I’m only 18.

    • Joey Nemesi August 7, 2012 at 10:18 PM #

      By the way my names Jessie, I just use my brothers mobile device

  63. maureen August 14, 2012 at 8:44 PM #

    Please tell me this is satire because lady, you can’t be serious. Gabby has obviously gotten the most attention out of the 5 girls and I guarantee she will make the most money in endorsements. The announcers went out of their way to praise her throughout the competition; she was the “Golden Girl” of the games. She was also obviously overscored compared to Jordyn in all-around qualifications. It’s hilarious how you’re crying racist when Gabby actually had the racial advantage here; she has received more attention and praise for being a Black face in a predominantly White sport. Kyla Ross is part African-American too but doesn’t look it, so she doesn’t get the attention Gabby does. If Gabby were White, Asian, Indian or Hispanic, I wonder if she would have even made the podium? The only racism was the affirmative action that led to the medal around her neck.

    • H. Veal August 14, 2012 at 10:52 PM #

      I try not to call names, but you are either deaf, dumb, blind or simply a white female. I’ll play nice in the sandbox and settle the latter is most likely, suggesting you have gone through life as a beneficiary of so many things simply showered upon you. White privilege will cause you to have blinders on. Please take a look at the date the initial post was written, July 30th. Your post of August 14 is two weeks later. Now, go back and watch a telecast (if you can) and listen to the comments and the manner they were made with reference to Gabby on the initial coverage of women’s gymnastics. The tone of the commentators changed “after” she won the Gold medals. So get your timing together first, then get your facts straight. By the way, regarding your affirmative action dig at the end of your post; white women have been the most favored recipients of Affirmative Action measures. I am sure this is not a fact you will choose to research, but a fact it remains. I guess affirmative action was on the beam, floor, bars and the vault and at the judges table too. Affirmative Action is why these folk to name a few were/are successful: Tiger Woods, Dr. Charles Drew, Eric Dyson, Tracey Meares, Dr. LeSalle Lefall I could go on forever but it wouldn’t matter, your mindset is such that you (or yours) have lost something because Affirmative Action took it away. Stop playing yourself.

      • Wally-O August 16, 2012 at 12:22 PM #

        you are reaching..your article is reaching. Though it shouldn’t matter, i’ll disclose that i’m a black male; not dumb, nor deaf or blind. I read what you posted on July 30th where I responded a few days after. I see simple knit-picking on your end but if you knit-pick at every tiny oz. of the coverage, you might very well find something of insignificance, which in this case, you can assess to portray as some type of racially-driven motive. I watched a vast majority of the women’s events & I didn’t take it upon myself to reach the way you did to discover some underlining racial “oppression.”

  64. John-Wesley August 18, 2012 at 12:16 AM #

    WE ALWAYS see first what Most aren’t courageous enough to acknowledge. The Genius part is in The Telling!! And you told it. “Tell the Truth…Shame the Devil”


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