When Gabby Douglas became the first African-American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title, instead of her lauding her, people criticized her hairstyle — an unremarkable but practical ponytail.
Four years later, Douglas got another gold medal, but yet again, internet trolls have rained on her parade, this time for not putting her hand to her breast during the national anthem at her medal ceremony. Or her for facial expressions. Or for, yet again, her hair. Or for her body type. It just doesn't stop.
“I tried to stay off the internet because there's just so much negativity. Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart or I look depressed. It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It's been kind of a lot to deal with," said Douglas, who has been dubbed as “Crabby Gabby” by her haters. “I apologized if I offended anyone. I've always said it was an honor to represent the U.S. You always do this for your country, and then, like people say, for yourself and other people.”
Douglas also did not give a standing ovation to her teammates, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, when they claimed the gold and silver medals respectively for the all-around finals, leading to the impression that she was jealous and angry at her teammates’ success — and giving more fodder for her trollers to criticize her.
“When I heard some of the comments, I was finally like 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, that's far from me and far from my personality at all,'” said the 20-year-old gymnast.
Despite apologizing, Douglas’ critics have not let up and this time, her mother Natalie Hawkins has had enough.
“I don't think respecting your country or your flag boils down to whether you put your hand over your heart or not,” Hawkins said. “It's in your actions towards your country, how well are you abiding by its laws, how well are you helping your fellow citizens?
"We grew up in the military community. My mum spent almost 30 years in the military, my dad's a two-time Vietnam vet. Because of that it was so insulting that they would accuse my daughter of being unpatriotic when we are so tied to the military family. When the Star Spangled Banner is played, most military members either salute or stand to attention.
“We've been brought to many tears because I don't know what she's done to warrant such an attack. To me it looks like she is being bullied,” Hawkins added.
Hawkins also says she doesn’t know if her daughter was being racially profiled.
“Many people are telling me that all the time. And that's from white people and black people. I don't want to believe (it's a race attack) as I want to have more faith,” she said. “But when I go on Twitter, I can't help but see that all the blacks are saying: "Was it just the white people that are saying this against us?”
Hawkins also told Reuters: “She's had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn't smiling enough, she's unpatriotic. Then it went to not supporting your team mates. Now you're 'Crabby Gabby.’ You name it and she got trampled. What did she ever do to anyone?”