Alana Smith became the first non-binary athlete to compete in the Olympics but sadly, they were repeatedly misgendered by commentators.
The twenty-year-old represented the U.S. on Sunday in the women's skateboarding street event. Despite the non-binary athlete having their pronouns visible on both their skateboard and their shirt, commentators still failed to address them correctly.
Alana Smith with They/Them on their board at the Olympics pic.twitter.com/a5FtWqME8g
— Jen J Walker (@MsJenJWalker) July 26, 2021
Sports commentators Todd Harris and Paul Zitzer for NBC Sports and Marc Churchill and Ed Leigh for the BBC continued to use the wrong pronouns throughout the duration of the event.
In response to their commentary, U.S-based trans journalist Britni de la Cretaz spoke out about their lack of research on Twitter:
"This is journalistic malpractice. No one should have to be misgendered on an international stage like this. Sports don'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."
Many others reached out online to get broadcasters to start using the correct pronouns. However, it seems their efforts were in vain, as they continued to use the wrong pronouns.
Discussing the backlash, BBC commentator Tim Warwood stated:
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
"It wasn't myself commentating. I'm sure the boys would of course apologize to Alana. I hadn't seen anything regarding gender and I'm 100 percent sure they hadn't either. Hence the mistake," he said.
While many were horrified by what happened, some understood it was just a mistake, while others questioned why they were competing in the women's event in the first place...
One Facebook user wrote: "I understand some people don't want to identify as neither male nor female but, if you are going to compete in a female event then doesn't that make you female? A little hypocritical IMO. Something needs to change to allow non-binary people to compete against each other ie. a non-binary category for each event or even a whole separate Olympics but, you can't enter a female event if you don't identify as female and vice versa for males."
While another added: "But wait… this was 'Women's' skateboarding correct? So if the announcers were not informed ahead of time, I don't see how they can be to blame."
To the BBC commentators. Alana Smith has they/them on their skateboard and goes by that.
I'm sure it's not done in malice, but just a note. #BBCOlympics pic.twitter.com/Nc7Pi7kZUs
— Justin (@juza_23) July 26, 2021
Out has since reported that NBC issued an apology:
"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."
Stonewall also called for "swift corrections" from broadcasters. The charity added: "All athletes deserve to be respected and celebrated as part of the games."
Smith has previously told USA Skateboarding, "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."