A Texas deputy attorney general caught some heat after calling US Olympian Simone Biles a ‘selfish, childish national embarrassment’

Simone Biles.
  • A Texas prosecutor criticized Simone Biles after she withdrew from two Olympic events in Tokyo.
  • The remarks drew backlash, with one person saying Biles has “ten times the integrity than you do.”
  • Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz apologized for speaking without full knowledge of the situation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Texas attorney general caught some heat Wednesday after calling US Olympian Simone Biles a “selfish, childish national embarrassment” for withdrawing from two events at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Olympic gold medalist announced her withdrawal from women’s gymnastics team final at the Tokyo Games earlier this week, citing mental health concerns.

Some people drew comparisons between Biles’ exit and US gymnast Kerri Strug, who helped her team win gold in the 1996 Olympic Games despite having a broken ankle, showing what could happen when athletes push themselves too far.

Writer Chris Buskirk tweeted a video of Strug’s performance in 1996, saying she had “amazing grit” and that “the great ones find a way.”

Aaron Reitz, a deputy attorney general in Texas, reshared Buskirk’s tweet, with the caption: “Contrast this with our selfish, childish national embarrassment, Simone Biles.”

The now-deleted post drew criticism, and one Twitter user responded to Reitz, saying Biles has “ten times the integrity than you do.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement he “learned about a very inappropriate and insensitive tweet by one of our employees” and that the matter “will be handled internally.”

“I know Simone Biles – she is a fantastic athlete but an even better person,” Paxton said in the statement. “Mental health is far more important than any athletic competition and I fully support her decision.”

Following the statement from the Office of the Texas Attorney General, Reitz later tweeted saying his “personal social media comments do not represent Attorney General Paxton or the Office of the Attorney General.”

“In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I opined on subjects for which I am not adequately versed,” Reitz said in a statement posted later Wednesday. “That was an error. I can’t imagine what Simone Biles has gone through.”

“Simone Biles is a true patriot and one of the greatest gymnasts of our time,” he added. “I apologize to her, and wish her well.”

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Michelle Obama and Sen. Mitt Romney praise Simone Biles after she pulled out of Olympics event: ‘We are rooting for you’

simone biles
Simone Biles of Team United States blows a kiss whilst watching the Men’s All-Around Final on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

  • Several politicians praised Simone Biles after she pulled out of an Olympics event.
  • “I love and admire Simone Biles and our Olympians,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah tweeted.
  • Biles withdrew from the team competition, citing mental health concerns.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several public figures and politicians threw their support behind US gymnastics champion Simone Biles after she decided to pull out from a team Olympics event on Tuesday.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama tagged Biles in a tweet on Tuesday evening and wrote: “Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily.”

“We are proud of you and we are rooting for you,” she added.

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah similarly commended the superstar gymnast, writing in a tweet: “I love and admire Simone Biles and our Olympians.”

“Beyond their determination and sacrifice, they evidence the greatness of the human spirit, in victory and in defeat,” he continued. “I take pride in them, not so much for the medals they win as for the grace, humanity & character of their hearts.”

Biles sent shockwaves through the Olympic Games on Tuesday when she unexpectedly withdrew from Team USA’s group competition in Tokyo, Japan, after she scored low marks on her opening vault routine. USA went on to earn silver in the women’s gymnastics team final.

The 24-year-old athlete later revealed that she dropped out due to mental health concerns.

“I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being,” she told reporters. “That’s why I decided to take a step back.”

Biles also cited the stress of the global sporting competition and the pressure to perform well for others as reasons for her exit. She announced on Wednesday that she will also not participate in the individual all-around final at the Olympics, set to take place Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged the move in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“God bless our athletes. We admire them for their skill, and their discipline, and their focus, and their talent,” the top Democrat said. “And we admire them as athletes, but we admire them as people for having the strength to walk away from all that.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Biles’ withdrawal “courageous” and congratulated the rest of the women’s gymnastics team on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Other members of Congress also tipped their hat to Biles for pulling out of the competition.

Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts described her as an “American icon” and “inspiration to young women across the world.”

“She’s also human, and her decision to put her mental health first is once again setting an incredible example for all of us,” Trahan added. “We’ve got your back, Simone.”

Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York tweeted that Biles’ “decision to put her mental health first is a testament to her character, bravery & will help #EndTheStigma” around mental health.

“We stand with her & congratulate the USA gymnastics team on bringing home the silver,” he said.

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Superstar gymnast Simone Biles is leaving Nike for a new partnership with Gap-owned athletic brand Athleta

Simone Biles
Simone Biles.

  • Gymnast Simone Biles is leaving Nike for a partnership with Gap-owned Athleta.
  • Biles told The Wall Street Journal that she’s attracted to Athleta’s values and female-focused team.
  • Sprinter Allyson Felix also signed a deal with Athleta following a high-profile split with Nike.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gymnast Simone Biles is leaving Nike for a new partnership with apparel brand Athleta.

The five-time Olympic medalist has signed a deal with the Gap-owned athleticwear company that includes her own line of performance wear, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Louise Radnofsky. Biles told The Journal that Athleta’s core values and female-focused team led her to sign with the company.

“I felt like it wasn’t just about my achievements, it’s what I stood for and how they were going to help me use my voice and also be a voice for females and kids,” she said. “I feel like they also support me, not just as an athlete, but just as an individual outside of the gym and the change that I want to create, which is so refreshing.”

The Journal notes that despite Biles’ sponsorship deal with Nike, which she signed in 2015, she has not been a major face of the brand, making only small appearances in advertisements. Biles is currently the best female gymnast in the world and is widely considered to be the greatest of all time.

Biles has 25 world-title medals, the most in the world – she’s competed in just one Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where she took home four gold medals and one bronze. She plans to compete in the Tokyo games, which will be held this summer after being pushed due to the pandemic.

A spokesperson for Nike did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. A Nike spokesperson told The Journal that “Simone Biles is an incredible athlete and we wish her the very best.” The company “will continue to champion, celebrate and evolve to support our female athletes,” the spokesperson said.

Read more: After gaining 2 million new customers with its masks, Athleta’s head of merchandising reveals plans to keep them by becoming a ‘lifestyle brand’

Biles decision to leave the Nike roster follows several instances of female athletes reporting issues with the company. Allyson Felix, one of the most decorated sprinters in history, accused the company of failing to support her decision to become a mother in a bombshell op-ed she wrote for The New York Times in May 2019. According to Felix, during contract negotiations that coincided with her pregnancy, Nike offered her a 70% pay cut and refused to guarantee that Felix wouldn’t be punished for being unable to perform her best after childbirth.

Felix signed a deal with Athleta in 2019.

Multiple other female runners, including Kara Goucher, Phoebe Wright, and Alysia MontaƱo, have spoke up about the pressure to perform during or immediately after their pregnancies or face reduced sponsorship payments from Nike. The company has since instituted a new maternity policy that does not penalize pregnant athletes.

In 2019, Mary Cain, a female sprinter who was signed to Nike’s high-profile Oregon Project track team, told The New York Times that she was pressured to get “thinner, and thinner, and thinner” at the detriment of her health. Nike launched an internal investigation and said it would make internal changes to better support female athletes.

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