On Sunday night, NBC ran a lovely profile segment about U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who, along with her sister, was adopted by her grandparents. Biles, who was sent to foster care as a toddler when her mother struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, considers Ron and Nellie Biles to be her parents. In the segment that aired before the women’s gymnastics all-around preliminary competition, Biles shrugged off questions about her family, saying that there is “no story” because it’s “always been this way” for her.
Apparently that wasn’t good enough for Al Trautwig, NBC’s gymnastics announcer, who repeatedly referred to Ron and Nellie Biles as Simone’s “grandparents” during the competition. When viewers pushed back on Twitter, Trautwig doubled down.
— Jen Talley (@jenunexpected) August 8, 2016
A June article in Time tells the story of the Biles family and explains how Simone feels about Ron and Nellie:
Ron wanted to adopt Adria, then only 14 months old, but Nellie insisted on taking both girls, so they could keep each other company. On Christmas Eve in 2002, the Biles became parents to their grandchildren. From the first day, Biles asked her grandmother if she could call her mom. “When I was younger, I thought every kid was adopted,” she says. “I didn’t understand why people made it such a big deal. To me it’s just normal.”
Aimee Boorman, Simone’s longtime coach, didn’t mince words:
@AlTrautwig actually they are her parents.
— Aimee B (@Salto_Coach) August 8, 2016
Families whose lives have been touched by adoption were understandably upset by the suggestion that adoptive parents aren’t “real” parents.
Carrie Goldman wrote at Chicago Now:
As a journalist and also a mother through adoption, I think that NBC should do a better job of educating their commentators. When Trautwig publicly denies that Ron and Nellie Biles are Simone’s parents, it is a terrible blow to adoptive families everywhere. It threatens the legitimacy of Simone’s own self-identity. It is not Al Trautwig’s place to say whether or not Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents. His tweet brings back the pain that adoptees feel every time they are told that their mom and dad are not their real parents.
My daughter was born to another mother. She, like Simon Biles, lived in foster care before she came to us. Her dad and I are her parents. To every adoptive mother or father out there, you ARE a parent. You are validated. You are real. Your love and devotion and time and sweat and unconditional love make you a parent. Don’t ask Al Trautwig. Go ask the sons and daughters who love you, who call out your name when they are scared or excited or lost or hopeful or sick or joyful. Adoption is about love and family and so much more than 130 characters in a Tweet.
Simone credits her mother with inspiring her to do her best in competitions and supporting her in her gymnastics career.
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 12, 2016
Nellie sent her daughter a series of encouraging tweets to help her prepare for the Olympics—all signed “Mom.” The final tweet looks like a private response Nellie received from Simone. All are super sweet examples of the love between a mother and daughter—and God bless the Biles family for opening their hearts and homes to Simone and her sister when they were in need!