Texas Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz sparked outrage on social media Tuesday after tweeting that Simone Biles was a “national embarrassment” after she announced her withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics.
Just a day after withdrawing from the team division, Biles, a Houston native, announced Tuesday that she would not be competing in the individual all-around final either, citing mental health reasons.
Texas Attorney General Reitz retweeted a video of 1996 gold medalist Kerri Strug, who won team USA gold with an ankle injury. Reitz tweeted, “Contrast this with our selfish, childish national embarrassment, Simone Biles.”
Contrast this with our selfish, childish national embarrassment, Simone Biles. https://t.co/IwgoPOXvrG
— Aaron Reitz (@aaron_reitz) July 27, 2021
His tweet gained significant outrage, as commenters struck back in support of Biles, and some called for him to publicly apologize for his comments.
“You seriously need to apologize publicly to her,” one user wrote. “Her health comes before competing. You clearly are heartless, but I guess I am not surprised by this.”
One Twitter user referenced the deep freeze in the state of Texas in February, in which reports state at least 150 people died. “I’m pretty sure you meant to say ERCOT instead of Simone Biles. If you could harness her energy and integrity maybe people wouldn’t have died in this state.”
Kerri Strug, who now has two children and has a master’s degree in Sociology, tweeted her support for Biles on Tuesday, saying, “Sending love to you” with a goat emoji and a heart.
Sending love to you @Simone_Biles 🐐❤️-Team UNITED States of America 🇺🇸
— Kerri Strug (@kerristrug96) July 27, 2021
Others on social media have compared Strug to Biles, but not in the way Reitz did. Both gymnasts have been celebrated for their strength and bravery on social media.
Twitter user Jamie Perkins tweeted, “In 1996 we put the gold over the health of Kerri Strug. In 2021 put the health of Simone Biles over the gold. That’s what progress looks like, not a march toward supremacy at all costs. I’m proud of our silver medalist team of first-time Olympians! Go Suni, Grace and Jordan!”
In 1996 we put the gold over the health of Kerri Strug. In 2021 put the health of #Simone Biles over the gold. That’s what progress looks like, not a march toward supremacy at all costs. I’m proud of our silver medalist team of first-time Olympians! Go Suni, Grace and Jordan!
— Jamie Perkins (@perkja) July 27, 2021
And another wrote, “Kerri Strug played through the pain and won gold. Simone Biles knew her limits, accepted them and was still there to cheer on her teammates. They’re both iconic, and they should be celebrated accordingly.”
Teammates and Olympic athletes have expressed their support for Biles. Michael Phelps, in an interview on Tuesday night, said, “The easiest way for me to say it is I think athletes, and Olympic athletes in general, we need someone who we can trust. Somebody who can let us be ourselves, listen and allow us to become vulnerable. Somebody who is not gonna come try to fix us.
“We carry a lot of things and a lot of weight on our shoulders. It’s challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all the expectations that are being thrown on top of us.”
“It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to go through ups and downs and emotional roller coasters … I felt like I was carrying, as Simone (Biles) said, the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s a tough situation,” Phelps added.