Right-Wing Twitter Loses Its Mind Over Simone Biles Withdrawing From Competition. Is it Fair?

(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

If you were on Twitter yesterday, you would have thought Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles had robbed a bank, shot up a preschool, and then looted a Nike store for fun. Instead, she dropped out of a team competition she felt she could not continue. Many overly harsh comments were made on conservative Twitter where blue checkmarks had a field day tearing the gymnast apart for “quitting” on her team.


Matt Walsh from The Daily Wire wrote, “The star player on a football team would never get subbed out because he’s ‘in a bad headspace.’ It is impossible to imagine [Tom] Brady or [Patrick] Mahomes leaving a playoff game because of their ‘bad headspace’ because it simply has never happened and never would.”

“Oh, so she quit on her team at a time when they needed her most and cost them the championship. I didn’t think these American Olympians could possibly get even MORE unappealing but alas, here we are,” wrote Jesse Kelly.

“We now have decorated Olympic athletes quitting in the middle of the competition because they’re sad. What an absolute embarrassment. But in some ways an appropriate representation of a country that has gone soft,” continued Walsh, refusing to let it go.

The criticism was harsh and loud and continued all day. I found myself amazed at the lack of empathy coupled with the absolute certainty that they’re right. Are they right? How could they know? Only Simone knows what happened and why she had to pull out. What she said publicly is being criticized because she said she wasn’t “having fun” and threw in some platitudes about putting herself first. That did come off as odd, but context matters. I got the distinct impression that none of these people who lost their minds over Biles’ withdrawal watched “Athlete A” on Netflix about the horrific sexual, mental, and physical abuse that our Olympic women’s gymnastic team suffered under Larry Nassar and Bela and Marta Karolyi. Simone Biles was one of the hundreds of victims. This is a girl who as a child was regularly molested while being under the abusive and punishing training style of the Karolyis. Despite that, she became a record-breaking world champion.


Biles came out publicly about the abuse and even said that walking back into that training center where her abuse happened has been traumatizing. She knew Tokyo was going to be difficult for her. How could anyone doubt it? And why, when it became too much (for whatever reason) and she backed out, was the reaction from her country so cold?

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” Biles wrote in 2018.

But the worst part is that the critics are leaving out very important information. Biles saved her team from losing the silver by bowing out. According to Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel, Biles was causing her team to lose big time, and pulling out gave them the opportunity to get the silver. The gold was not an option after Biles’s performance. “On Simone ‘quitting her team,'” Wetzel wrote, “she actually saved it. Her vault scored a 13.766. Brutally low. It was 0.534 below her teammates and 0.700 below the lowest Russian score. Russia took a commanding 1.06 lead because of it. US can’t win silver if she’s scoring like that.”

The Wall Street Journal quoted Biles saying, “After that vault, I was like: I’m not in the right headspace, I’m not going to lose a medal for this country and for these girls because they’ve worked way too hard.” That doesn’t sound like someone leaving her team in a lurch. Read the whole thread below because it’s illuminating.


Yet, Charlie Kirk went on the air and called Biles a “selfish sociopath,” “weak,” and a “shame to the nation.” I find it difficult to understand the kind of hatred being lobbed at one of the greatest Olympians we’ve ever had after she let her dreams of Tokyo 2020 go so that her teammates could have a shot at the podium.

When I pushed back on some of this rhetoric, the response was, “No one is immune from criticism.” That’s true. But is your criticism fair or helpful in any way? Or are we just having a pile-on to prove some political point about quitting? I think that makes a difference. And if your premise is wrong and she’s not selfish and not a sociopath but someone who was saving her team from a huge loss, shouldn’t that change your mind? Erick Erickson was big enough to say he was wrong and had jumped to conclusions. “Having read a lot more, my initial reaction to the Simon (sic) Biles stuff was wrong. Seems pretty clear that by walking away she actually improved her team’s chances and avoided a potentially serious injury. She’d have actually let the team down by staying.”

Erickson deserves praise for admitting he was wrong and overly harsh. The rest of them should follow his example. But they won’t. They’re all doubling down on the hateful comments today. But the most interesting take was by former gymnast Hannah Renno, who explained in great detail what the gymnastics world and Biles have been through and outlined what probably happened here. Renno, who is now a pediatrician, posted a very long commentary on Facebook that is well worth reading.



Does the common man know how badly gymnastics hurts? Or do they make it look deceptively easy so you don’t think about their pain?

So if we treat this as a math equation, so far we are adding together:

– Surviving sexual abuse by the doctor that your sports federation hired, plus

– Competing for an organization (USA Gymnastics) that has lied and withheld and destroyed documents that would be incriminating in these cases, and still in a legal gridlock with a massive lawsuit and bankruptcy, plus

– Giving repeated interviews that say a primary reason you are still competing is to hold the governing body accountable for its abusive actions, plus

– Being “led” by a leader whose whole strategy is “Don’t worry, nobody can beat us when we have Simone,” plus

– Being led by a leader whose wife can’t refrain from being a keyboard warrior whining about all the (justified) criticism of her husband on the very eve of this epic meet today (don’t look, it’s sickening), plus

– Pressure amplified by media outlets and social media, plus

– Real physical pain, plus

– Real physical exhaustion, plus

– Real physical DANGER (I can’t describe to you how complex, impressive, and downright dangerous these skills are that she is competing), plus

– Her own self-imposed goals and pressure, equals…

My guess–and admittedly, this is purely speculation based on what I saw and what she said in interviews afterward–is that she lost air awareness in her vaults. Some people call it “The Twisties.” It’s like an inner ear equilibrium problem when you are flinging flipping flying twisting through the air at 100 mph. If you don’t know where you are in your twist, then you have no idea when/how you will hit the ground. If you don’t know how to prepare for the landing, it can hurt you. Very badly. Usually it stems from stress and lack of confidence in a skill. But once it happens once, it is very difficult to just “go back to normal.” Sometimes it takes weeks. Or months.

Renno then told the story of being badly injured after a case of “the twisties” that should be read to be understood.

If anyone has a right to say “no” it’s Simone Biles, who has suffered enough for Olympic glory in an organization that never cared about her while she was being molested and abused. It’s time for Simone’s voice and all the voices of those women to be heard and respected. The scandal of what happened to our Olympians—who we all thought were having the times of their lives and living the dream—is outrageously criminal. They were living a nightmare and no one helped them. No one cared. Steve Penny, former president of USA Gymnastics, was indicted for allegedly destroying evidence that would have helped the investigation into the abuse. 

The indictment by Texas authorities alleges that Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch where USA Gymnastics athletes trained in Walker County, Texas, that were related to Nassar’s activities at the ranch after learning an investigation was underway.

The documents were allegedly delivered to Penny at the USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis, where he either destroyed or hid them. They have not been recovered. The Texas Rangers and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office said in the indictment that the documents are “material” to their investigation of Nassar and would have aided an investigation of other offenses at the ranch.

Did Tom Brady’s management ever do this to him? Comparing pampered NFL players to little girls who were sexually, mentally, and physically abused with the consent and help of their organization is not in any way fair. The two sports are not at all comparable. And listening to armchair commentary from right-wing Twitter stars trying to make it so is maddening. This is why we can’t have nice things and everyone hates us. 

A few voices on the right have stepped in to try to stop the madness. Robby Starbuck wrote, “I think everyone could show a little more grace to a young lady who was the victim of childhood sexual abuse just a few years ago by the team doctor. We don’t know what Simone Biles is going through but a recent childhood sex abuse survivor deserves grace and patience.”

In response to this type of argument, Walsh declared that Biles never said the abuse was her excuse and so he disregards it completely. I wonder if he would expect his own daughter, if she were abused, to talk about it all the time…in front of reporters…and the entire world. But Biles did cite her mental health as a reason for withdrawing. Why might Biles have mental health problems? Could it be the repeated and systemic sexual, physical, and mental abuse she suffered for most of her childhood because of her sport?  Just because the left has made a mockery of mental illness doesn’t mean we should lose our compassion for people who truly suffer—and victims of child sexual abuse suffer the most.

Bridget Phetasy wrote, “We have a compassion crisis in this country.” But from where I am sitting it looks like the compassion crisis is on right-wing Twitter. Everyone else in the country is being supportive and compassionate while our guys are taking kill shots at a child sex-abuse victim while championing the institution that did it to her. It’s not a good look, guys.

Ben Shapiro tried to calm the waters and did a pretty decent job. “Simone Biles isn’t a cowardly villain for pulling out of the Olympics. She isn’t a brave heroine for pulling out of the Olympics. We live in such an insanely polarized society that we can’t just let people be people.”

Unfortunately, the people doing the polarization this time are on our side—and it should stop today. 





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