Four years ago, Gabby Douglas earned the title of best gymnast in the world after winning two gold medals at the London Olympics. Today she’s been labeled #CrabbyGabby.
Did she earn that title too? I don’t think so. This is just another example of when Twitter takes hold of an innocent action and turns it into an end-of-the-world scenario.
After making history in London in 2012 — becoming both the first African-American gymnast to become the all-around Olympic champion and the first female gymnast to win both team and all-around gold in the same Olympics — Douglas found herself a household name all over the world. Cereal boxes, books, red carpet appearances, and a made-for-TV-movie became the new reality for the 16-year-old. She could do no wrong – and that’s when she needed to be most careful. In our culture, when you get to the top of your career – there is always someone there waiting to take you down.
In Rio, Douglas earned just one gold for the team competition. During the medal ceremony, she did not place her hand over her heart during the national anthem (THE HORRORS!) and apparently, didn’t smile enough – which is ironic because in London, it was that HUGE smile that got so much attention.
Twitter grabbed hold of the ceremony footage and the trolls went to work. They attacked her demeanor and her “lack of patriotism”. She was #CrabbyGabby for not smiling. She was anti-American for not putting her hand over her heart. And they didn’t stop there. She was criticized for not giving teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman a standing ovation when they claimed gold and silver in the all-around final. She was accused of bleaching her skin and having breast enhancements. All the hate took its toll on Douglas.
“You name it and she got trampled,” her mother said. “What did she ever do to anyone? I don’t think respecting your country or your flag boils down to whether you put your hand over your heart or not.”
I agree. I think patriotism should be measured by what you do for your country and community, and how you treat others. And another thing, I didn’t know there was such a strict protocol for when the anthem is played. I always stand and remove my hat if I’m wearing one. But when I’m at a Dodger game proudly (and loudly) singing our country’s anthem, do I put my hand on my heart? Not usually. I guess I’m unpatriotic too.
Sometimes, Twitter just needs to chill.