"Terrible blow"

Sports commentator offends with tweet that Simone Biles’s mom and dad are “NOT her parents”

Simone BIles during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 7, 2016. (Getty Images)

As U.S. gymnast Simone Biles continues to meet her fans’ great expectations at the Olympics in Rio, NBC commentator Al Trautwig has been disappointing them. A now-deleted tweet by Trautwig, in which he unilaterally declared the couple who adopted and raised her were “NOT her parents” sparked outrage among the adoptive community.

Biles and her younger sister Adria spent time in foster care before they were adopted by their maternal grandfather, Ron Biles, and his wife, Nellie. In spite of Simone’s decision to call Ron and Nellie her parents, Trautwig has repeatedly referred to them as her grandparents, going so far as to defend his pedantry and lack of sensitivity. “They may be mom and dad,” he wrote, when challenged on his choice of terminology, “but they are NOT her parents.”

Simone is the winner of the last three World Championships — and the only female gymnast to ever win three World Championships in a row. She and her mom, Nellie, shared a loving exchange of tweets leading up to Sunday night’s competition.

In a fierce column published on Chicago Now, journalist and adoptive mother Carrie Goldman called on NBC to educate their commentators better. “When Trautwig publicly denies that Ron and Nellie Biles are Simone’s parents, it is a terrible blow to adoptive families everywhere. It is not Al Trautwig’s place to say whether or not Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents. His tweet brings back the pain that adoptees feel every time they are told that their mom and dad are not their real parents.”

“To every adoptive mother or father out there, you ARE a parent,” she added. “You are validated. You are real. Your love and devotion and time and sweat and unconditional love make you a parent. Don’t ask Al Trautwig. Go ask the sons and daughters who love you, who call out your name when they are scared or excited or lost or hopeful or sick or joyful.”

In a statement emailed by NBC on Monday, Trautwig referred to his “error”: “I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air. I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”

In an interview with USA Today in December, Biles said: “When I was younger, I was adopted by my grandparents, which are now my parents. I call them Mom and Dad. Everything’s just been so normal.”

This story has been updated to include Al Trautwig’s statement, issued on Monday.

Read the full story at Chicago Now and USA Today.


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