• Tue, Aug 28 2012

Why Would Gabby Douglas Lie About Her Old Gym Being Racist?

Gabby Douglas bullying racism gym Excalibur lying OprahAppearing on Oprah’s Next Chapter over the weekend, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas revealed news that was either incredibly surprising, or not a shock at all: She told Oprah that she felt bullied by her fellow gymnasts at Excalibur‘s gym in Virginia, where she trained before moving to Iowa for the two years’ training that would actually take her to the Olympics. At around the 4:20 mark in this video, Gabby explains, “I definitely felt isolated. I felt, ‘Why am I deserving this? Is it because I’m black?’” She also described one incident where her teammates joked that she should scrape chalk off the bars. According to Gabby, the other girls said, “Why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave.” She says she was afraid to show her potential.

But now, Excalibur trainers and parents are speaking out via the gym’s Facebook page, accusing Gabby of lying about all of this. Defenders of the gym think it’s odd that Gabby would bring all this up now when her original reason for leaving the gym was allegedly to work with a different coach. In short, they think that Gabby is using her fame to pursue some petty vendetta. Randy Stageburg wrote a detailed response, but this excerpt about sums up her side of the story:

Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I am not saying that she never felt bullied because when you are in a sport with a bunch of girls it is bond to happen. However, anything that she may have felt was never about race and I can assure you everyone at some point has felt bullied. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up. Also, not only does she owe the gym thousands of dollars but she owes dena thousands as well. I watched dena open her home to gabby, feeding her, taking her to gym, and allowing her to stay over her house whenever gabby wanted to. You take people like dena and Gustavo, people that are selfless and put so much into helping these gymnasts reach their potential and you make them out to be evil and heartless.

But what would it benefit Gabby to make up all the bullying? It’s not as if she needs to get America on her side; we fell in love with her the first time we saw her smile! And of course she wouldn’t feel that it was appropriate or something she could change if she confronted the bullying years ago, when she was just another rising gymnast. Perhaps she feels that, as an Olympic champion, she could actually impact the conversation about bullying.

At the same time, if this were true, only so much of it would be Excalibur’s fault. It could be that the girls Gabby was training with were simply little shits who knew they could get away with racist jokes. If she didn’t say anything and no trainers noticed the girls making offhand comments, then it doesn’t reflect on the gym as a whole. Adolescent girls are awful. We know this. However, what I do take exception with regarding Excalibur is that they go after Gabby for “waiting until now” to dredge all this up… and then they do the exact thing, accusing her of not paying her old coaches thousands of dollars. Obviously she’s good for the money now, but to attack her in the public space over that issue is worse than her bullying accusation.

Seriously, though, Gabby — or Gabrielle, as she seems to want to be called now — can do this:

Gabby Douglas Olympics floor gif

She doesn’t need anything else.

Photo: @gabrielledoug

.gif: BuzzFeed

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  • Paul

    Maybe to deflect and obfuscate the fact that her mom and dad owe the former gym several thousand dollars. Just maybe…

  • Doug Hendrix

    She probably was a victim of the other children and the parents, as well as the trainers and coaches, just don’t know it. Obviously she didn’t feel confortable there or she would not have left.

  • Cassy_Again

    Why did the gym and coaches wait until the Olympics to go public about her owing them money?

    • Serena

      Because she didn’t become a public figure until the Olympics, so naturally her private life (parents financial troubles, dad walking out on them) didn’t make the news until she got famous. Just like your problems don’t make the news, but if you won a gold medal they might.

      Also I think the main reason Gabby left was to train with Liang Chow in Iowa. Shawn Johnson won a gold medal training with him and Gabby clearly picked him for that reason.

  • Lastango

    This is the phase where
    Gabby is poised to make $millions, Oprah is helping launch her, and suddenly a
    new backstory with a racial angle appears.

    That’s not a new pattern. Remember when a young Tiger Woods said he wasn’t black? He emphasized
    instead that he was a mixture of several races. Then he signed a $40 million
    promotional contract with Nike. Suddenly, Woods became VERY black. It was time
    Break Barriers and be Historic. Nike knew the marketing angle it wanted to ride,
    and Woods cashed their checks.

    Be aware that that people in Gabby’s position are acting on professional
    advice. There are tens of millions of $$$ at stake, and everyone on Team Gabby
    knows it. From here on out, nothing we see or hear will be an accident. Every emphasis will be carefully selected. Trivial or joking comments from the dim past will be used to best advantage, exaggerated, taken out of context, invented, and repeated as necessary to positon the product. They
    are working to turn an athlete into a cultural heroine to increase her market
    value by achieving the broadest possible exposure and appeal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sharrieff-Poorman/100002320462805 Sharrieff Poorman

    When Paris Jackson the daughter of one of the most famous entertainers in the world, said that she was bullied, no one said anything. Gabby opened up to Oprah just like Paris did. They have both been bullied but for different reasons. I am waiting to hear what Paris Jackson tweets about Gabby’s comments. Paris always seems to support one cause or another. For example she supported Miley Cyrus haircut when other people said negative things about her. Paris Jackson also supported Justin Beiber when some celebrity said derogatory statements about his fans. She has also come out and spoke in support of gay people. And she will forever have to support her eccentric father. Since she and Gabby are around the same age, i hope she will support her also. If she doesn’t, that speaks volumes about the character of Paris Jackson. I believe everything Gabby said. When you are trying to make it to the top you are going to keep things inside. Once you have achieved where you want to go you are in a position to speak. White people don’t want to see Blacks out do them, especially in gymnastics, which for many years, has been a sport dominated by short White people.

  • Helen

    According to other reports she left the gym on a weekend when the owners were away, left a note in their daughter’s locker that she was her BFF and said nothing. There’s also claims that she owes thousands and the gym said they would not pursue action to be paid until after the Olympics (I think article about the Douglas’ not paying was before Gabby actually won). Now the Olympics are over and the gym will probably do as they said and seek to be paid what they are owed. Right at that time Gabby makes these claims.

  • jenver

    Teenage girls can be little bitches, this is nothing new. Add jealousy onto it and they’re just about capable of saying anything to hit below the belt. I totally believe what Gabby is saying, but I think they would’ve been horrible to her if she was white or asian or latina. It’s more about jealousy than race.

  • Dr_Jean_Claud

    “But what would it benefit Gabby to make up all the bullying.” Ummm, $3 million.

    Someone with an average IQ would understand that most teams, no matter whether sports, scholastic or one of the specialist military forces all engage in this kind of “banter.” So the kind of comments, as stated by gabby herself, unlikely as they may be are not unusual for any team of highly trained , and highly stressed, individuals.

    In addition, the most common factor for these kinds of stories is the pressure one receives from producers, directors, ad nauseum on shows like Oprah because “you’ve got to have an interesting story to tell our MILLIONS of viewers”–no need to tell you the more controversial the better–and millions of dollars I might add in salaries, advertisement, investment capitol and so on.

    The phenomenon is not dissimilar from numerous court cases where a “subject” is put under hypnosis to find the”truth” about a crime they witnessed (studies show that the answers to the questions the “therapist” is asking directs the subject to give the answer he/she thinks the therapist wants to hear–needless to say hypnotism has gone out of favor in court in recent years.

    There is one further incentive… the pay for appearing on opera is truly phenomenal. And that appearance is followed by the one’s on the view as well as every other talk show she can fit into her schedule.

    This “story telling to please” behavior is common under certain circumstances and I haven’t even touched on the notoriety involved (parties, gifts, boys, etc.) as a reward for her cooperation (each show pays her enough to buy a new Lexus).

    None of this is to say that Miss Douglas is aware of what is happening to her “just all part of being a superstar” she is told, and how is she suppose to know the difference.

    The down side for her of course is the legions of people who are trying to make a buck off her, hollywood is replete with stories of personalities who made millions and died penniless because they were scammed. Sad but true.

  • Soothsayers

    I cant believe this!! How did you know how she felt. If someone tells you a racist joke then you would feel sad about it. Why would you not be? Its sad that are black girls are put into a position to shut their mouths about what they experience, because they don’t want their career on the line. The coach agrees that there was bullying going on. but no racism. WTF? Ask 95% off black children if the type of bullying they experience is black jokes and I bet you they will say yes, unless they are feeling threatened to say otherwise. The other 5% just have not experienced it yet