Outrage After Commentator Misgenders First Ever Openly Non-Binary Olympian
Alana Smith made history as the first non-binary athlete to compete in the Olympics, but commentators seemingly couldn’t grasp the situation.
20-year-old Smith represented the US in the women’s skateboarding street event on Sunday, July 25 at the Tokyo Games. During the competition, many noticed that the non-binary athlete had their preferred pronouns etched into their skateboard and written on a pin on their shirt.
Nonetheless, sports commentators Todd Harris and Paul Zitzer for NBC Sports and Marc Churchill and Ed Leigh for the BBC continuously misgendered the athlete throughout their commentary.
In response to this lack of research, Britni de la Cretaz, a US-based trans journalist, made scathing comments about the commentators on Twitter:
This is journalistic malpractice. No one should have to be misgendered on an international stage like this. Sports doesn’t know what to do with non-binary athletes.
Shoutout to Alana Smith, the first openly non-binary athlete to represent the U.S. in an Olympic Games.
Many others reached out online to commentators and broadcasters to try and get them to research Alana and start using the correct pronouns. Unfortunately, it seems this message didn’t get to the commentators who continued to use incorrect pronouns.
Discussing the backlash, BBC commentator Tim Warwood stated:
It wasn’t myself commentating. I’m sure the boys would of course apologise to Alana. I hadn’t seen anything regarding gender and I’m 100% sure they hadn’t either. Hence the mistake.
While many will understand this was a mistake, there will be concerns about the research that has been conducted, as commentators usually list plenty of facts about competitors.
The BBC has not commented on the situation, but Out reported that NBC issued an apology:
NBC Sports is committed to — and understands the importance of — using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms. While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers.
On the back of the incident, Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBT+ charity, called for ‘swift corrections’ from broadcasters. The charity added ‘All athletes deserve to be respected and celebrated as part of the games.’
Smith has previously told USA Skateboarding, ‘I don’t want to be known as a good female skateboarder. I just want to be known as a good skater, someone that made a difference. Gender shouldn’t matter.’
Smith didn’t qualify for the medal round, but many have been inspired by the skateboarder.
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