The deputy attorney general for Texas has apologized after he called Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who is from the Lone Star state, a ‘national embarrassment’ upon her withdrawal from the US team finals.
His tweet, which came Tuesday, drew a condemnation from his own boss, who had said the matter would be dealt with ‘internally.’
Now Aaron Reitz, the deputy AG, says he owes Biles an apology – ‘a big one.’
In a now deleted tweet, Reitz on Tuesday shared a video of gymnast Kerri Strug, who in the 1996 Olympics competed with an injured ankle to help the US team win the Gold, and wrote, ‘Contrast this with our selfish, childish national embarrassment, Simone Biles.’
After a backlash, Reitz said he owed Biles an apology.
‘In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I opined on subject for which I am not adequately versed,’ he said in a statement. ‘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.’
Texas Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz (left) apologized Wednesday after her called gymnast Simone Biles a ‘national embarrassment’ upon her withdrawal from the US team finals
After a backlash, Reitz said he owed Biles and apology
Biles, who is from Houston, won four gold medals at the Rio 2016 games, but withdrew suddenly from the team competition on Tuesday, citing mental health issues.
On Wednesday she also pulled out of the individual all-around competition.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement in response to the incident.
‘Today I learned about a very inappropriate and insensitive tweet by one of our employees, This will be handled internally,’ he said. ‘I know Simone Biles – she is a fantastic athlete, but an even better person. Mental health is far more important than any athletic competition and I fully support her decision.’
Strug herself also voiced support for Biles’ decision on Tuesday, tweeting: ‘Sending love to you @Simone_Biles – Team UNITED States of America.’
In response to the incident Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement saying it would be handled internally
Reitz had made his initial comment on twitter, where he retweeted a video of gymnast Kerri Strug, who in the 1996 Olympics competed with an injured ankle to help the US team win the Gold
Paxton announced Reitz as the deputy attorney general for legal strategy in November 2020, according to the AG’s website.
The site says Reitz was in the Marines for five years on active duty and had been deployed to Afghanistan; after his service, he attended the University of Texas School of Law.
Biles decision to withdraw from the team final – following a very uncharacteristic error on her first event, the vault – sparked furious controversy online, with critics accusing her of ‘abandoning’ her three teammates, two of whom were forced to take her place in the three other events at the last minute.
Biles’ fellow Team USA gymnast Jade Carey, 21, who finished ninth in qualifying, took her place in the all-around Thursday.
Strug herself voiced support for Biles’ decision
Reitz’s comments came after the the four-time gold medal winner quit the US team competition
Biles decided not to compete in Thursday’s finals after consulting with Team US officials following her dismal withdrawal from the team competition on Tuesday
The 24-year-old – who had been expected to lead the US to gold in the team event – was withdrawn from the lineup after flubbing her vault in the opening minutes of the team final competition in Tokyo on Tuesday
Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American gymnast behind Biles and Sunisa Lee; International Gymnastics Federation rules state that only two athletes per country could take part in the individual event finals.
Following Tuesday’s withdrawal, where the US ultimately finished second to the Russian Olympic Committee, Biles – widely referred to as the the ‘greatest of all time’ (GOAT) in her sport – said she wanted to concentrate on ‘what’s right for me and focus on my mental health’.
Speaking about her sensational exit from competition, which cleared the way for Team USA’s Russian rivals to claim gold in a dramatic upset, Biles said that she made the decision both to prioritize her own ‘wellbeing’ – and out of fear that she would cost her teammates their shot at winning a medal.
‘To focus on my wellbeing,’ she told reporters of her reasons for pulling out of the competition following a shock flub on the vault.
‘It is very unfortunate that it has to happen at this stage because I definitely wanted this Olympics to go a little bit better but again, we’ll take it one day at a time and we’re going to see how the rest goes.’
Despite backlash to Biles decision to withdraw from the Olympic competitions, it has also received support. Popstar Justin Bieber spoke out to praise Biles in a candid Instagram caption on Wednesday, when he compared her withdrawal from the finals to his own cancelation of his Purpose tour in 2017
She later added: ‘I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. I don’t know if it’s age, but I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics.
‘I feel like I’m also not having as much fun, and I know that this Olympic Games I wanted to do it for myself, and I was still doing it for other people, so that just hurts my heart badly, that doing what I love has been taken away.
‘Whenever you get in a high stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.’
Will Simone Biles continue ANY of her individual quests for gold? Gymnast’s finals thrown into doubt
After her shock withdrawal from the team final and Thursday’s individual all-round, Simone Biles’ future at the Tokyo Olympics is in serious doubt.
She is still scheduled to take part in the finals for the vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, and balance beam.
Should she choose to take part – and provided she gets the all-clear from USA Gymnastics – Biles’ upcoming events schedule is:
- SUNDAY, AUGUST 1: Vault final and uneven bars final
- MONDAY, AUGUST 2: Floor exercise final
- TUESDAY, AUGUST 3: Balance beam final
Biles struggled in qualifying for these events, ending up in the eighth and final spot for uneven bars, the sixth spot for balance beam, and the second spot on floor exercise.
She doubled down on her statement about not wanting to jeopardize her team’s shot at a medal on Wednesday, when she re-posted a tweet in which it was pointed out that she could have cost her teammates their second-place finish if she had continued competing in the final.
‘….did she cost the team a gold medal? Or did her decision help her team win a silver medal? ….because if she had a really bad performance her team would not have placed at all,’ the tweet read.
While Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team final drew much backlash, dozens of social media users have also spoken out in defense of the athlete – with popstar Justin Bieber voicing his support of the gymnast on Instagram on Wednesday afternoon, comparing her decision to withdraw from the finals to his own choice to end his Purpose tour mid-way through in 2017.
‘Nobody will ever understand the pressures you face! I know we don’t know each other but I’m so proud of the decision to withdraw. It’s as simple as – what does it mean to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul,’ the singer wrote in a lengthy caption that was posted alongside a photo of Biles.
‘Sometimes our no’s are more powerful than our yes’s. When what you normally love starts to steal your joy it’s important we take a step back to evaluate why.
‘People thought I was crazy for not finishing the purpose tour but it was the best thing I could have done for my mental health!! So proud of you @simonebiles.’
Her supporters also included former gymnast Andrea Orris, who slammed Biles’ critics while praising her for ‘all she has done for the sport’.
‘It makes me so frustrated to see comments about Simone not being mentally tough enough or quitting on her team,’ she said in a statement – which was posted on Twitter by martial artist Brandon Marino and then retweeted by Simone – began.
Orris continued: ‘We are talking about the same girl who… won the world all-around championship title while passing a kidney stone. Put her body through an extra year of training through the pandemic. Added so much difficulty to her routines that the judges literally do not know how to properly rate her skills [because] they are so ahead of her time.
‘All this while maintaining her responsibilities to her endorsement deals, the media, personal relationships, etc. And some people can still honestly say, “Simone Biles is soft. She is a quitter.”‘
Pictured: Team USA, including Simone Biles (second right), pose with their silver medals
The former gymnast, who is based in Los Angeles and is not known to have ever trained with Biles, pointed out that the error made by the 2016 Olympic all-around champion on vault would have left the majority of athletes suffering from a serious injury, explaining that there are few people who could have managed to land on their feet after bailing on a skill in mid-air.
‘For non-gymnasts, the fact that she balked mid-air and accidentally did a 1.5 on her first vault instead of a 2.5 is a big deal. It’s terrifying,’ Orris stated. ‘She could have been severely injured getting lost in the air like that. The fact she somehow landed on her feet shows her experience and is incredible.’
Three-time Olympic medalist Paul Gasol, who is a Spanish basketball player, also sent a message to Biles, writing: ‘All my support to Simone Biles.
‘Mental health is a key component of our health, and it MUST be a priority always. We need the sports world to focus on emotional and mental well-being a lot more.’
Support system: Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler, and Hoda Kotb were among the celebrities who took to Twitter to show their support for Biles
‘Someone said it best. @Simone_Biles already won. She is a class act. Withdrew from team [competition] after vault… stayed and cheered on her teammates… got them chalk for their hands.. encouraged.. hugged them. She already won. Congrats on the silver medal!’ tweeted Kotb, who is in Toyko covering the Olympic Games for NBC.
Handler commented: ‘@Simone_Biles drew a boundary for herself and her health on the world stage. This is real superhuman strength, setting an example for all of us.’
While DeGeneres wrote: ‘@Simone_Biles, you’re solid gold in my book.’
Former first lady Michelle Obama echoed the outpour of support for Biles in a tweet Tuesday night.
‘Am I good enough? Yes, I am. The mantra I practice daily,’ Obama wrote. ‘@Simone_Biles, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you. Congratulations on the the silver medal, Team @USA!’
Biles even received words of support from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who insisted the gymnast is still the ‘Greatest of All Time.’
‘Gratitude and support are what @Simone_Biles deserves,’ Psaki tweeted from her personal account. ‘Still the GOAT and we are all just lucky to be able to see her in action. And congrats and tks to the tough as nails #TeamUSA @sunisalee_ , @ChilesJordan , @grace_mccallum2 for being role models and champs.’
Former first lady Michelle Obama echoed the outpour of support for Biles in a tweet
Biles also received support from Athleta, the Gap-owned women’s sports apparel company that also serves as one of Biles’ sponsors.
‘We stand by Simone and support her well-being both in and out of competition,’ Athleta Chief Brand Officer Kyle Andrew said in a statement obtained by Fox Business. ‘Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself. We are inspired by her leadership today and are behind her every step of the way.’
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland applauded Biles for prioritizing her ‘mental wellness over all else’ and offered the organization’s full support.
USA Gymnastics women’s program vice-president called Biles’ act ‘incredibly selfless.’