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Al Trautwig Should Be Fired for His Comments on Simone Biles' Adoption

Photograph by Getty Images

A few years ago, I went out to eat with a friend and our two kids. My daughter was sitting in a high chair next to me, just under 2 years old at the time, when our waitress came over and started asking questions. She had a thick accent and broken English, as well as a clear interest in how my daughter (who looks nothing like me) and I were connected.

I tried to answer her questions kindly, knowing that they came from a place of simply not understanding, but when she asked where my daughter’s “real” parents were … I froze.

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I’d had my little girl since the day she was born. I was the one who handled every late night feeding, who soothed every cry, and who sacrificed sleep and a social life to be the only mom this little girl had ever known. And while we have a close relationship with the mom who carried and birthed her, the implication that I’m not my daughter’s “real” mother was one that knocked the wind out of me.

Still … I recovered and responded gracefully, mostly because I knew this woman simply didn’t understand the dynamics involved. As she explained it to me, adoption in her culture is very rare. She wasn’t trying to be hurtful, she just didn’t understand.

The same cannot be said for Al Trautwig.

The NBC Olympics gymnastics’ commentator sparked controversy Sunday night when he called gymnast Simone Biles’ parents her grandparents. His exact words were, “She was raised by her grandfather and his wife, and she calls them Mom and Dad.”

For the record, Simone calls her parents Mom and Dad because … they are her mom and dad. The pair adopted Simone and her sister in 2002, after their biological mother’s battle with drugs and alcohol landed the girls in foster care. Since that time, and even for several years before the official adoption paperwork went through, these two have been Simone’s parents in every definition of the word. They have supported her in her gymnastics career, loved her unconditionally and been the stable force in her life she has always known she could rely on. She lived with them from the time she was 3 years old and recently told Time, “When I was younger, I thought every kid was adopted. I didn’t understand why people made it such a big deal. To me it’s just normal.”

She calls them Mom and Dad, which should be enough for the rest of the world to accept them as such.

Why this man thinks it’s his place to define anyone else’s parental relationship is beyond me.

Of course, it is possible to believe that perhaps Trautwig simply had a slip of the tongue in his explanation. Maybe he was trying to highlight the adoptive relationship there, which has been commented upon quite frequently this Olympics’ season in an effort to build up Simone’s backstory. And perhaps he just went about it the wrong way, awkwardly describing what really wasn’t that hard to explain.

One could hope that, if not for his follow-up response to a viewer who tweeted, “Hey, @AlTrautwig stop calling her PARENTS her grandfather and his wife. A. Nelly is more important than ‘his wife’ B. THEY ARE HER PARENTS.”

Now, that would have been the perfect opportunity for Trautwig to backtrack and explain he hadn’t meant his commentary to come out how it sounded. It was his chance to defend that parental relationship and apologize for his misstep.

Instead, Trautwig chose to respond, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”

Lovely.

First and foremost, I would love to know what Tratuwig’s definition of “parent” is. Obviously, he is sticking stringently to a biological definition, but why? Merriam-Webster doesn’t go that far, defining parents simply as, “a person who is a father or mother: a person who has a child.” And there are certainly plenty of non-biological parents, myself included, who still consider themselves parents—even without that biological connection.

Our children consider us their parents as well.

So honestly, fuck you Al Trautwig. You’re a douche.

Why this man thinks it’s his place to define anyone else’s parental relationship is beyond me. My guess is that his ego got in the way here, and when he got called out on his misuse of words, rather than back up and apologize for something that probably easily could have been swept under the rug and forgotten—he doubled down. Because apparently, this is not a man who likes to be told he’s wrong. Just ask the Twitter user who called Trautwig out on a misspelled tweet in 2013—Trautwig actually tracked the guy down and called his parents in the middle of the night, then engaged in a bizarre Twitter war of Trump-esque proportions.

So … that should tell us all what kind of man we’re dealing with here.

For the record, this isn’t the first time Trautwig has gotten heat as a result of his gymnastics’ commentary over the years. Plenty of articles have been written slamming his lack of understanding of the sport, as well as some of his misogynistic and disrespectful commentary. There was even a petition to remove him from his job created just days before this most recent controversy exploded.

So while I’m not normally one to jump on the, “Fire whoever it was that just said something awful” bandwagon, I’m going to jump on this one. Al Trautwig is a jerk, and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be in the prestigious role of officially commenting on gymnastics, or any other Olympics sport for that matter.

It should be noted that he has since removed the tweet and issued an apology—something that is no doubt painful for someone like Al Trautwig to do. But this only happened after NBC released a statement saying, “We became aware of the situation last night and addressed it with Al quickly.”

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Let there be no doubt Trautwig’s apology came about because his higher ups forced it upon him—not because he actually thinks he said anything wrong.

So, yeah … the guy is a jerk. And he clearly has no understanding of the parental relationship that exists between Simone Biles and her mom and dad, or the parental relationship that exists in any adoptive family for that matter. But the difference between Trautwig and that waitress who once asked me about my daughter’s “real” parents is this: that waitress was trying to understand.

Trautwig? He was just trying to be an ass.

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