Image by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil (cc)
One comment. Someone made an ignorant comment about adoption, giving no thought to the consequences of his words. Hey, it happens all the time. Maybe the particular subjects of the comment were hurt, maybe not. I don’t know them. But I do know that this time, the comment was made in front of an Olympic-sized audience.
Here’s what happened: On Sunday, NBC Sports announcer Al Trautwig referred to American gymnast Simone Biles’s adoptive parents as her grandparents. In fairness to Trautwig, Biles’s father is her biological grandfather. He and his wife legally adopted her and raised her from a young age; thus, they are legally and otherwise her parents. Quite a few people, including at least one adoptive parent, pointed out this error in Trautwig’s reporting. To my mind, the error might have been forgivable. A simple, “Oops, sorry,” plus a correction could have ended the controversy there.
But that’s not what Trautwig did. Instead, he tweeted, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” (Emphasis his.) After a storm of comments, interviews, and words with superiors at NBC, Trautwig apologized and deleted the tweet. But what goes out on the internet is forever—just ask my kids, to whom I’ve lectured on this topic many times. You can read about the incident and apology at the Washington Post here.
You might wonder, what’s the big deal? A sports reporter made a dumb comment, then he apologized. Over and done. Or maybe you’re inclined to say, mountain, meet molehill. Or, well, he was just clarifying facts. He didn’t intend any insult. There wasn’t anything behind what he said.
Before I explain what’s wrong with Trautwig’s comment, I want to note that I considered for a long time whether to write to condemn it. After all, Trautwig did apologize, so case closed, right? Especially in the current political and social climate, maybe we should stop looking for reasons to be angry or offended, and search instead for opportunities to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think Trautwig meant to demean or hurt anyone. I’m sure he thought he was just clarifying the facts.
But as a parent by both adoption and biology, I decided I had to speak up.