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By Andrea Peyser
Aug 29, 2016
Erstwhile Olympic darling Gabby Douglas has been reviled on a level with Lyin’ Ryan Lochte — the swimmer who pulled a Brian Williams in an effort to wriggle out of an early-morning fiasco involving a boatload of alcohol, a vandalized Brazilian gas-station bathroom and a pissed-off guard he conflated with a robber holding a loaded pistol to his forehead.
What has Gabby done?
The 5-foot-2 artistic gymnast, a member of this year’s gold-medal-winning American “Final Five” and star of the 2012 London Games’ “Fierce Five,” has been slimed unmercifully on the Internet as “Crabby Gabby.” She’s been slammed for not smiling enough, for her hair not lying straight enough. Her patriotism has been called into question by trolls pumped up by know-nothing TV and Internet commentators. So what put the young lady of 20, not yet old enough to drink anything stronger than soda in the US, on a moral plane with Justin Bieber?
Was she cruel to animals? Did she demand of a young idolizer, “Do you know who I am?”
Hardly. Gabrielle Douglas did nothing wrong, her only possible failing being her overeagerness to make Americans proud. And she was repaid with the kind of scorn one sees flung at presidential candidates.
The anti-Gabby smear campaign shows how easy it is in these days of Facebook, Twitter and countless other social media for people to form virtual pitchfork-wielding mobs that savage fellow human beings, often anonymously. Maybe it was just Gabby Douglas’ turn. It isn’t fair.
Anti-Gabby whispers turned into a roar as she shared in her team’s all-around gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. As her four sisters in gymnastics put their right hands over their hearts while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at the medal ceremony. Gabby stood with her hands down.
The condemnation was brutal.
“Douglas was slumped with her hands held casually in front of her as if she had just finished last,’’ wrote columnist Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times.
“Love ya, but that wasn’t even ‘attention’ — if you’ve got a beef with America, say so,” tweeted Rick Swift.
“shameful. Ruined the proud moment. Move somewhere else,’’ another Twitter user, Patricia Esham, piled on.
ABC’s “Good Morning America’’ devoted precious air time to Douglas’ allegedly bad behavior, and so on.
Gabby, who had to skip Sunday night’s VMAs after a brief, mystery hospital stay, wasn’t pulling a Colin Kaepernick. The biracial 49ers quarterback dissed the American flag by remaining seated during the National Anthem Friday. He said he was protesting the killings of unarmed men of color by police, infuriating some football fans who torched replicas of his jerseys. But Gabby grew up in a military family.
Her mom, Natalie Hawkins, told Reuters that both her own parents were veterans. When the anthem plays, she said, “most military members either salute or stand to attention.’’ There is no requirement to put a hand over the heart.
But then Gabby seemed to throw serious shade to teammate Simone Biles as Biles won the gold in the individual all-around competition and Aly Raisman took the silver.
In 2012, Gabby became the first black woman ever to win gold in this, but she didn’t qualify to compete for it his year. Was she jealous? More likely, she was caught on camera looking angry while trying to decide what to eat for dinner. She said she was sorry anyway for her crabby facial expression. Cut her some slack!
Gabby completed the final routine of her Olympic career, finishing a disappointing seventh out of eight competitors on the uneven bars. She could not hold back tears when facing the media afterward.
“I apologized if I offended anyone,’’ she cried. “Wait. What did I do to disrespect people? What have I done to disrespect the USA?’’
“She’s had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin,” her frustrated mom observed.
“They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn’t smiling enough, she’s unpatriotic. Then it went to not supporting your teammates.”
Natalie Hawkins was asked whether the criticism was racist. She didn’t want to go there. These kinds of attacks have not been launched against newly minted Olympic sweetheart Simone Biles, 19, who also is African-American.
But as a celebrity, she should prepare for the mob to turn on her one day, too. I think we can count on it.