Here's a slogan for all the sports writers, talking heads, activist athletes, and social media brand-builders:
"Make Sports Racist Again."
That appears to be the goal. We want the sports world to reflect the sensibilities of the early 1900s, when everyone picked sides based on skin color. Life was easier back then; it required far less thought. In the 1910 fight of the century, white people cheered for Big Jim Jeffries like the plight of their race depended on it. Black people cheered for the Galveston Giant, Jack Johnson, for the same reason.
A century later, a tiny black gymnast, Simone Biles, is color-coding our passions once again. On Tuesday night, at the Tokyo Olympics, Biles bowed out of the team competition, citing mental stress. Biles, 24, is the most decorated gymnast in history and the biggest star at the Olympics. Her early departure from the team competition destroyed any chance of the U.S. winning the gold medal.
It was a selfish, narcissistic act, a deed that perfectly defines coddled and selfie-obsessed Millennials. The only people who don't see it this way are the growing number of sports experts and fans who interpret all actions through a racial lens. The people making sports more racist again. They don't see an elite athlete folding in her biggest moment. They see a black woman who must be defended as though the plight of black people depends on her reputation.
In their corrupted and bigoted minds, they see yet another wounded, helpless black person in need of saving. We're all just baby seals incapable of surviving failure without the sustenance and empathy of massive amounts of warm white and chocolate breast milk.
NBC, Reuters, and the Hollywood Reporter, just to name a few, published stories detailing the outpouring of support directed toward Biles, including, of course, former first lady Michelle Obama. Even President Joe Biden's "Red Priestess," Jen Psaki, bared her left-wing breast to nurture Biles, tweeting: "Gratitude and support are what Simone Biles deserves. Still the GOAT and we are all just lucky to be able to see her in action."
I'm not saying we needed to pile on Biles. But we know damn well she wouldn't be receiving this kind of support if she were a white athlete, or even a male athlete. Biles, pothead sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, protesting hammer thrower Gwen Berry, and fragile tennis star Naomi Osaka — the cast members of the U.S. Olympic reality show "Black Girls Tragic" — live inside a protective bubble filled with the breast milk of Stacey Abrams, Michael Eric Dyson, Max Kellerman, Maxine Waters, and Maria Taylor.
The truth is, Biles' Olympic Fold tramples Chris Webber's infamous NCAA Tournament timeout, Bill Buckner's ghastly World Series blunder, Tony Romo's ignominious field-goal flub, and Jean van de Velde's shocking British Open collapse.
Simone Biles cracked. She choked. She quit. And then she threw out a popular excuse she knew few people would question out of fear of appearing insensitive and being accused of racism.
"Whenever you get in a high stress situation you kind of freak out and don't really know how to handle all of those emotions, especially at the Olympic Games," she told reporters. "I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my wellbeing."
On Wednesday, Biles announced she won't be competing in the all-around competition on Thursday. She, again, will focus on her mental health. Maybe Biles shouldn't have competed in these Olympics. She's 24. That's like being a 40-year-old football player. Maybe Biles is competing reluctantly. She might be in these Games at the behest of Nike and other brands rather than her own ambition.
Whatever her motivation, our reaction to her failure shouldn't be color-coded and color-driven. She let the nation and her teammates down. She should be held accountable for that. There's nothing heroic about quitting. Her actions are similar to the Indianapolis Colts defensive back Vontae Davis, who retired from football at halftime of a game.
My favorite athletes of all time are Tiger Woods and Magic Johnson. Their skin color played a role in my passion for them. Tiger competed in a sport in which men of color had previously had little success. I chose Magic in the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird feud. I don't degrade white sports fans for loving Bird. He dominated a sport dominated by black men. I get it.
However, I've criticized both Tiger and Magic when they've failed. I blasted Magic for quitting as the Lakers' team president two years ago. It's natural to want to see people who look like you have success.
It's just as natural to be upset when people shirk their responsibilities, fail to represent our country at the highest level, and make convenient excuses for their irresponsibility and failure.
The people who want to make America more racist again are wrong. Being black and being stressed are not acceptable excuses for failure.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article identified Sha'Carri Richardson as a swimmer. She is a sprinter.