Justice

What This Olympic Announcer Said About Simone Biles Is a Slap in the Face to Adoptive Families

August 8th 2016

By:
Taylor Bell

Although Olympic star gymnast Simone Biles had a spectacular debut at the Olympics on Sunday, her performance wasn't the only thing people were talking about.

NBC commentator Al Trautwig apologized for comments he made during a broadcast of the women's gymnastics qualifying round, and later on Twitter, in which he suggested that Biles' adoptive parents were not her real parents. 

According to USA Today, Biles' grandparents Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her sister Adria in 2001 as Simone's mother suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. But in giving background about Biles' life, Trautwig seemed to draw a firm distinction between Ron and Nellie and Simone's "real" parents. 

As reported by Slate, Trautwig explained that "she was raised by her grandfather and his wife, and she calls them Mom and Dad."  

He later stood by his response in a tweet that has since been deleted.

His comments sparked backlash on Twitter ... 

... including a rebuke from Simone's coach.

But not too long after, the NBC commentator clarified his comments and apologized.

“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” Trautiwig said in a statement emailed by NBC Sports according to USA Today, “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”

But Trautwig's comments only further misconceptions about adoptive parents and the relationship they have with their children.

Writing for Psychology Today in 2012, Abbie Goldberg noted that the summer blockbuster "Avengers" had made light of adoptive families with the following dialog exchange: 

Thor: He is of Asgard and he is my brother!
Black Widow: He killed 80 people in 2 days.
Thor [deadpan]: He’s adopted.

As Goldberg notes in her piece, the back and forth suggests that the familial bonds between adoptive relatives are somehow less significant than those in biological families.

"When people ask adoptive parents, “Is that your real child?” or “Where’s her real mother?”, they are communicating a set of beliefs about what “counts” as family, and what types of relationships and families are more valid than others," Goldberg wrote. 

The Independent Adoption Center refers to this as "The Two Sets of Parents Myth." 

"Our parents are our parents not because of egg and sperm, but because, for as long as we can remember, they have always been the people with us and for us as mother and father. The same is true for the children in an open adoption. They know who their parents are; they are people who are committed to them, who are always there, and who love and take care of them as parents."