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Simone Biles vs. the World (of Haters): Simone with the Win!

by Todd A. Smith

 

Malynda Hale, host of the podcast “We Need to Talk,” should go down in the Twitter Hall of Fame.


On July 29, Hale tweeted, “I have a question. Why is mental illness and lack of mental health an appropriate excuse for a mass shooter but not for an athlete to back out of a game or competition?”


Hale’s tweet came in the aftermath of United States gymnast Simone Biles choosing not to participate in some of the gymnastics competitions at the 2020 Summer Olympics for mental health reasons.


Almost immediately, Biles received criticism from conservative media personalities, so-called patriots and fair-weather fans who called her everything but a child of God for supposedly quitting on her teammates and her country when the going got too tough.


It must not have mattered to some that if Biles did not have her mind state right, she could have seriously hurt herself and hurt her team’s chances of winning a medal in team competition.


Unfortunately, Biles is not the only Black female athlete to experience ridicule from conservative media personalities for putting their mental health before sports.


Former Fox News anchor Megan Kelly recently criticized tennis star Naomi Osaka for taking a mental health break after media obligations at tennis tournaments became too much for her to handle.


When pictures of Osaka later appeared in Sports Illustrated, Kelly called out the so-called hypocrisy of Osaka choosing to pose for the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated while also claiming that the media had caused her mental health struggles.


Kelly forgot to mention that Osaka took those photographs many months before her mental health break.


But what Hale emphasized in her tweet is the unequal treatment of Black people and White people in the media when it comes to the importance of mental health.


To some in right-wing circles, mental health issues are an excuse when a White person commits a mass shooting or a mass murder.


However, mental health struggles should not be an excuse when it comes to Black people entertaining the White masses.


When it comes to entertaining the White masses, those poor little Black girls better suck it up and make the majority happy.


And by the way, those athletes better shut up while they entertain the majority.


If the well-being of those athletes is hurt, so be it because their only purpose on Earth is to entertain the masses and shut up.


However, if a White male kills multiple people for no apparent reason, they must have had a mental health breakdown and therefore deserve our sympathy.


Some people reading this op-Ed might say that I am just playing the race card and that people are free to criticize professional athletes if they so choose.


But people with common sense cannot argue that people are treated differently in this country based on skin color.


And unfortunately, the media plays a big role in that treatment.


Have you ever noticed that when a police officer shoots an unarmed Black man or woman, some in the media try to dig up something negative in that person’s past to justify the shooting?


On the other hand, have you ever noticed that when a White person commits a mass murder, some people will find every excuse to make it seem that mass murder is not that big of a deal?


Some people will use the age of the shooter as an excuse.


Some people will use the shooter’s troubled upbringing as an excuse.


And then others will use mental health as an excuse as to why this person killed countless random people.


However, when a Black athlete does something that is in their best interest like Biles and Osaka did, some of those same people will rake them over the coals for putting themselves first.


Some of those same conservative media personalities criticizing Biles and Osaka, are the same media personalities making excuses for the insurrectionists who stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 to overthrow our beloved democracy.


To some conservative media personalities, Biles let down her country for not putting her body in danger, while jeopardizing her teammates’ chance at medal.


But some of those same people refuse to call the rioters on Jan. 6, insurrectionists.


Some on the right will not even say that the insurrectionists were violent in their attempted coup.


To them, overthrowing our democracy is patriotic, while protecting one’s sanity is unpatriotic.


But to many Americans, Black people exist only to entertain the masses.


And while I can already hear people disputing the assortment, I have had people say to my face that Black people are just here to entertain them.


That is why Biles and Osaka received criticism from some in conservative media when they chose to put their health over their sports and why White mass murderers and insurrections received sympathy from some of those same media personalities.


Yesterday, baseball fans received the news that former Houston Astros All-Star pitcher J.R. Richard had passed away after battling COVID-19 in a Houston hospital.


Journalist Mike Wilbon from ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” brilliantly made the correlation of Biles in 2021 to Richard in 1980.


In 1980, Richard complained to the Astros that he did not feel well despite his success on the mound that season.


The media, Astros executives and some teammates criticized Richard, saying that he was faking an injury so that he could re-negotiate a better contract with the Astros.


Then while playing catch before a game in the Astrodome, Richard suffered a career-ending stroke.


After that stroke, Richard’s critics realized the mistake they had made by not taking Richard’s injury seriously.


But in 1980, athletes did not have the power to make their own decisions like they do in 2021.


As a result, Biles’ career is still there if she wants it, while Richard’s career ended prematurely, which led to him being homeless for a period of time.


By the way, did I mention that Biles rebounded to win the bronze medal in the beam?


So shout out to Biles, Osaka and Hale for using their voice and their power to change a narrative that should have changed decades ago.

This article was published on Friday 06 August, 2021.
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