Dear Gabby Douglas, America Owes You An Apology

Photo: Instagram/@gabbycvdouglas
gabby douglas national anthem olympics

Calling an Olympic hero “un-patriotic” due to her posture shows America at its worst.

Dear Gabby Douglas,

As a proud American, I’d like to tell you two things — “Congratulations” and “I’m sorry.”

My congratulations are obviously about your remarkable performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It has been amazing to track your growth as an athlete since the 2012 London Games, and I loved sitting down with my young daughter to watch you excel in this year’s team all-around competition.

But the thing I really want to say to you, as an American, is “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry that Americans have treated you so poorly over the past few days.

I am sickened by the fact that, as a nation, we came together to politicize, over-analyze, and demonize something as innocent as your posture during the gold medal ceremony on Tuesday.

For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with what happened — during the playing of the American National Anthem, Gabby failed to place her hand over her heart. She stood there quiet and respectfully.


However, simply because of her hand placement, the internet pundit community exploded, with some calling the athlete “un-patriotic,” while others praised her for making a subtle political protest… which didn’t actually exist. All because of how she was standing.

It all led to a million ignorant news stories debating every angle of the “incident” and Gabby having to release a statement where she had to “apologize if I offended anyone.”


Gabby, let’s just get this out there — You did NOTHING wrong. NOTHING. At all.

The fact that you even had to release a statement is completely abhorrent. It’s beneath you. And I apologize that you had to have something so monumentally inconsequential on your radar during such a major moment in your life.

You, unfortunately, fell victim to the United States’ favorite national past-time of late — crucifying public figures for being human.

How much we, as a nation, can ask of one person? You spent your life training as an athlete. You sacrificed your free time, your body, your personal life. Your family spent untold time and resources to help you train to accomplish your goals. You wowed everyone at the 2012 Olympics, bringing home gold for Team USA and proudly representing our country.

You became an honest-to-god role model that American children — heck, all children — could look up to.

And then you showed up to the 2016 Olympics. Older, wiser, but still focused like a champion, and you won. AGAIN. Once again, you spent years training for one of the most grueling competitions in the world and came home with a victory for your home country.


Everything that you’ve accomplished in your young life is a shining example of American excellence, of the mythical “American Dream.” That should’ve been enough, right? Wasn’t that enough to give to your country?

BUT, because, after you reached the end of years of training and commitment, after you finally had a moment to breathe and adjust to the shock of your victory, your hand wasn’t where it was SUPPOSED to be, so you obviously hate America.

Dumb. Ridiculous. Embarrassing.

I am ashamed at how America has treated you.

America — couldn’t we have just given her a break? Even if we noticed “hey, she’s the only one not holding up her hand,” couldn’t we have let it go? Couldn’t we have read the context clues and said “Hey, she worked SO hard during these games, maybe this isn’t a big deal?”

Because it’s not a big deal. But it was enough of a nitpicky little flaw in the armor of an exceptional American that it allowed couch-bound Twitter trolls and whorish news-cycle hacks to discount EVERYTHING she’d just accomplished.

“Yes, Gabby Douglas just made history AGAIN, but look at where her hand was for 2 minutes — WHAT A LOSER.”

Just because of your posture. And I’ve watched the video several times now. You did NOTHING wrong. You didn’t sneer. You weren’t checking your phone or rolling your eyes. You were just standing there. Like everyone else with no discernable agenda on your face.

But that didn’t stop a whole lot of Americans from arguing that they knew EXACTLY what you were thinking. Some read into it as a political protest — an aggressive reading-between-the-lines-without-any-evidence that would make an English major proud. And others just decided that they could (somehow) see real malice behind your serene face.

I was particularly disgusted by Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Plaschke who wrote a column filled with baseless supposition and barely disguised misogyny. (It reads like a piece by someone who would call Hillary Clinton “shrill” and tell her to “smile more.”)

He said your “aura” was different from your team members (must’ve just gotten back from Sedona). He discounted your unnecessary public apology and said, “If Douglas was truly overcome with emotion as she claimed, that would have been visible, yet her expression was blank and distant.”

Which is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read in a major newspaper (right after his aura comment). This man looked a quick video of you standing silently, listening to the National Anthem, and declared to the world “I CAN TELL what she’s feeling in that moment and she’s NOT FEELING THE RIGHT THING.”


Is this what America is like now? Is this what we do to our heroes? We let them toil and strive for our approval and, after they accomplish the impossible, we crucify them if we catch them not 100% meeting our expectations during an emotional moment?

If it is, I’m sorry you had to wear our colors at the Olympics, Gabby. Because you deserve better.

You are a wonderful representative of the United States of America, Gabby Douglas. I only wish we were giving you something more worthwhile to represent.