However, last night’s coverage was heartbreaking. Jordyn Wieber, the reigning gymnastic All-Around world champion and Team USA’s brightest star, narrowly missed qualifying for the individual All-Around finals due to a new rule that only allows each team to put through two girls at most. So despite the fact that she finished fourth overall and should clearly be in the top 24, Wieber will not advance along with her two higher-scoring teammates. Devastated and stunned, she burst into tears.
The next few minutes were a total debacle. Rather than face the press, Wieber tried to quietly walk backstage. Olympic officials told her she couldn’t. NBC then chose to interview Aly Raisman, the teammate who knocked Wieber out of eligibility in a shocking turn of events, with Jordyn standing in the background, still crying…and clearly visible on national television. They then interviewed Jordyn herself, after giving her a scant few minutes to compose herself.
In this day of modern technology, nothing is off limits. NBC knew that the public would be equally shocked by the results and would want to hear from Wieber herself. But did they have to blatantly show her sobbing, shot after shot, for a good ten minutes? Do athletes not count as people too? Or children? After all, Wieber only just turned seventeen. Despite her prowess as an Olympian and as a gymnast, do her feelings not matter?
I guess the real question should be – are athletes celebrities? When a celebrity goes through a public divorce, or a messy breakup, or a stint in rehab, we want to know every gory detail. And we feel that we have the right to know, since these people willingly live their lives in the public eye. But should athletes fall into that category too? Does their love of their sport qualify them for public ridicule and scrutiny?
I’m not sure on the matter. By choosing to pursue world-class athletics, you are aware of the public intrigue that comes along with it. But I still think your rights as a human, to grieve in private and without scrutiny, should matter. I feel that NBC handled this situation poorly, placing more importance on their ratings than on the emotions of a seventeen-year-old girl. My hope is that from here on out, the Olympics will be an uplifting event and not a negative one!
What do you think – do athletes count as celebrities? Have they sacrificed their right to privacy?