Olympic athletes face criticism: Is it race or something more?

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Callie Fried, Contributing Writer

When the Olympic Games come to mind, a mix of names float to the surface. The best of the best, the almighty, the champions. Each sport has its handful of victors whom America will remember for their triumph in the past Olympic games. Two athletes that are well know in the world today are U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte and U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas. Until recently, both of these Olympians were well respected and served as role models to athletes everywhere. Today, things are a bit different.

After the “Final Five” were awarded gold medals at the medal ceremony on Aug. 9, the national anthem played and the girls shined in their colors. Photos were taken and put up all over the internet with comments about Douglas not placing her hand over her heart during the national anthem. People called her unpatriotic and un-American. Douglas quickly took to her Twitter account apologizing for the mistake and explaining herself. However, this is not the first time she has dealt with criticism during the Games. The media had criticized the way she wore her hair, her attitude and her stance during the national anthem. Why is she treated so harshly when other Olympians have made mistakes that are equally if not more harmful to the people around them?

Lochte allegedly vandalized private property and claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint. However, the media did not say as many negative words about Lochte throughout the entire scandal. All the media decided to say was that he was a kid who “came to have fun” and deserved “a break.” So again I ask, why was Douglas faced with such harsh criticism over one mistaken action, but Lochte is let off without a scratch after blatantly lying to the press and breaking the law?

Some may believe it has something to do with race, but it is also about male privilege. Lochte is a white male who has been an Olympic champion since 2008. He has been loved for years and at the age of 32 he is still considered a “kid” when it comes to making mistakes. Douglas may be a three-time Olympic gold medalist, but being a young black woman puts her at a disadvantage. It is important that we recognize this problem now before it continues to progress.

For those who are in denial that this issue is based on the foundation of sexism and racism, it is time to take a step back from your own opinions and look at the bigger picture. Sexism and racism are not only issues that involve Olympic athletes, but they also involve ordinary people every single day. Now the more important question is, what can we do to stop this?

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