Alana Smith made history as the first openly non-binary athlete at the Olympics – but many are outraged they were repeatedly misgendered.
The 20-year-old represented the US in the women’s skateboarding street event on Sunday, with their pronouns etched into their skateboard to show everyone how they identify.
They also had their pronouns were stamped on a pin on their shirt too.
But, despite the pointers – and common bloody decency – commentators for the Olympic Broadcasting Services – a company set up in 2001 to provide coverage of the Olympics for networks to use – repeatedly misgendered them throughout Sunday’s event.
NBC has since apologised for using the incorrect footage in its broadcast.
Alana Smith with They/Them on their board at the Olympics pic.twitter.com/a5FtWqME8g
— Jen J Walker (@MsJenJWalker) July 26, 2021
It reads: “NBC Sports is committed to — and understands the importance of — using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms.
“While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers.”
The Olympic Broadcasting Services also issued a statement.
View this post on Instagram
It reads: “We are making a concentrated effort to improve and increase the representation of all genders and profiles across the spectrum of Olympic athletes.
“It is, therefore, with great regret, that we apologise on behalf of one of our commentators for misgendering Alana Smith during their performance at Skateboarding, and we send our profound apologies to Alana.”
This is journalistic malpractice. No one should have to be misgendered on an international stage like this. Sports doesn’t know what to do with non-binary athletes.
Shoutout to Alana Smith, the first openly non-binary athlete to represent the U.S. in an Olympic Games. https://t.co/7ane16AcRf
— Britni de la Cretaz (@britnidlc) July 26, 2021
Britni de la Cretaz, a queer sports journalist, tweeted their fury at the total lack of respect on the part of the commentators.
They tweeted: “This is journalistic malpractice. No one should have to be misgendered on an international stage like this. Sports doesn’t know what to do with non-binary athletes.
“Shoutout to Alana Smith, the first openly non-binary athlete to represent the U.S. in an Olympic Games.”
BBC Sport commentators Marc Churchill and Ed Leigh were also accused of misgendering Smith.
The BBC has so far declined to comment.
It wasn’t myself commentating. I’m sure the boys would of course apologise to Alana. I hadn’t seen anything regarding gender and I’m 100% sure they hadn’t either. Hence the mistake.
— TIM WARWOOD (@Tim_Warwood) July 26, 2021
BBC Sport journalist Tim Warwood defended his colleagues on Twitter.
He wrote: “It wasn’t myself commentating. I’m sure the boys would of course apologise to Alana. I hadn’t seen anything regarding gender and I’m 100% sure they hadn’t either. Hence the mistake.”
“If you don’t come across a skater that much then you rely on information provided to you by the event organiser. Not saying it was missed out I’m sure it was there, but personally I didn’t see it, and the guys are back in Salford with limited resources.”
Speaking to USA Skateboarding, Smith said that they want to be remembered as someone who made a difference.
They said: “I don’t want to be known as a good female skateboarder. I just want to be known as a good skater, someone that made a difference. Gender shouldn’t matter.”
Do you think more needs to be done to stop the misgendering of those in sports?