Al Trautwig, the gymnastics commentator for NBC’s Olympic Games coverage, has found himself in hot water for claiming Simone Biles’ adoptive mother and father are not her parents. The athlete was adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife – Ron and Nellie Biles –at age 6 with her younger sister Adria. The pair took the siblings in after their daughter struggled with drugs and alcohol.
Trautwig referred to Ron and Nellie as Simone’s grandparents on air during the competition. When a Twitter user corrected him he said, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”
The tweet was later deleted but not before others captured a screenshot, including Maggie Astor.
— Maggie Astor (@MaggieAstor) August 8, 2016
Many responded to the message, including Aimee Boorman, Simone’s long-time coach.
@AlTrautwig actually they are her parents.
— Aimee B (@Salto_Coach) August 8, 2016
Lauren Brewer questioned why Ron and Nellie kept being called her grandparents, adding “adoptive parents are parents.”
— Lauren Brewer (@knowinvno1) August 8, 2016
Andrew Watring thought the network needed to “educate yourself about adoption.”
— Andrew Watring (@AndrewWatring) August 8, 2016
Later on, NBC released a statement saying, “we became aware of the situation last night and addressed it with Al quickly.”
Time reported the 19-year-old Olympic all-around finalist was formally adopted by her grandparents on Christmas Eve 2002. Biles asked if she could call her grandmother mom on the first day it became official. Now, she refers to Nellie and Ron as mom and dad. While she has met her biological mom a few times, she only hears from her on birthdays and holidays.
“When I was younger, I thought every kid was adopted,” she told the magazine in June. “I didn’t understand why people made it such a big deal. To me, it’s just normal.”
According to USA Today, Trautwig emailed an apology to NBC Sports.
“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” he explained. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”
The statement came too little too late, however. The hashtag #FireTrautwig sprung up online after the commentator apologized.
@mskavon called for Trautwig’s “immediate dismissal.”
Dude needs immediate dismissal. They raised her. They're her parents. This isn't about biology. It's about NURTURE #FireTrautwig
— smh_yet_again (@mskavon) August 8, 2016
@olympicstoelect thought Trautwig’s statement was simply a defense of his “insensitive words.”
— Olympics to Election (@olympicstoelect) August 8, 2016