The Winter Olympics just started, and they’re already a mess.
When the Olympics roll around, it’s a time for countries to come together for three weeks to celebrate their own, as we send our best and brightest to represent us in sports.
And although the Olympics have been a place in which athletes have used the platform to make political and socially conscious statements in the past, they were usually the ones who were actually being oppressed, not the oppressors.
Enter Mike Pence.
The vice president has become the biggest story at the Olympics so far after he decided to remain seated during the Unified Korean team’s introduction at the Opening Ceremony.
For one, Pence’s refusal to stand means he hijacked the NFL players’ protest from last season when players knelt or remained seated during the national anthem. It’s ironic and hypocritical of Pence because he left an Indianapolis Colts game last season in anger after seeing members of the San Francisco 49ers doing the same thing. So, it appears a protest at a sporting event can be meant for something else, just as NFL players were never protesting the national anthem, but police brutality.
Secondly, by sitting through the Unified Korean team’s introduction, Pence not only disrespected the host nation in South Korea but also dissed a country that’s an American ally.
The second-most powerful man in our country couldn’t put aside his disdain for North Korea for a few minutes to support an ally or to acknowledge that the athletes have nothing to do with Kim Jong Un’s politics.
However, this shouldn’t be surprising given the track record of this administration when it comes to decency in global diplomacy. It also shouldn’t be ignored that Pence was the one who disrespected the Korean athletes, especially when he’s done it to American athletes as well.
Pence has also been in the news for lying about his failed attempt to have a sitdown meeting with figure skater Adam Rippon, one of two openly gay American male athletes at the Winter Olympics.
Rippon refuses to meet with the vice president, who has a history of not supporting the LGBTQ community. USA Today, Rippon and Rippon’s agent have all acknowledged that Pence’s team reached out, but instead of owning it, Pence has followed in his boss’ footsteps and referred to the facts as “fake news.”
Sadly, Pence isn’t the only person who has been at the center of controversy just days into the Winter Games. Commentators and members of the media also have taken attention away from the athletes.
NBC has had to fire Joshua Cooper Ramo, who was working as a commentator for the network, after he made insensitive remarks about Japan and South Korean’s relations during the Opening Ceremony.
“Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technical and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation," he said.
Japan occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945, an era of murder and rape on the Korean Peninsula.
Fox News Executive Vice President John Moody has also been in the news for offending people of color and gay athletes in a column that he wrote before the games began. The title of the piece, which has since been taken down, was: “In Olympics, let’s focus on the winner of the race — not the race of the winner.” In it, Moody said, “Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been 'Faster, Higher, Stronger.' It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to 'Darker, Gayer, Different.' If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work."
He then went on to say, "Complaining that every team isn’t a rainbow of political correctness defeats the purpose of sports, which is competition. At the Olympic level, not everyone is a winner. Not everyone gets a little plastic trophy to take home."
Moody’s comments came at a time in which American four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis skipped the Opening Ceremony after he lost a coin flip to decide whether he or Erin Hamlin would be Team USA’s flag bearer.
Hamlin is a four-time Olympian luger who has one bronze medal on her resume. She’s white.
Davis is a five-time Olympian speed skater who has two Olympic gold medals as well as a pair of silver medals. He’s black.
In 1936, Jesse Owens took Hitler and the Berlin Games by storm.
In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists.
And just days into the 2018 Winter Games, we’re seeing that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Especially when it comes to politicalizing the Olympics.