UPDATE: After news of Olympic skateboarder Alana Smith being misgendered by television commentators first broke, NBC Sports issued a formal apology for streaming an international feed that repeatedly misgendered Smith during coverage of the games.
"NBC Sports is committed to — and understands the importance of — using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms," NBC Sports' official statement and apology read. "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."
LGBTQ+ media watchdog GLAAD also released a statement in response to the controversy:
"With a record number of out LGBTQ athletes competing in these Games, including the first out nonbinary and transgender participants, it's important that journalists follow best practices for LGBTQ coverage," Mary Emily O’Hara, GLAAD's rapid response manager, said. "The Olympics coverage guide we published with Athlete Ally and Pride House Tokyo contains the most up-to-date terminology and recommendations — but when reporters and networks slip up, the best thing to do is sincerely apologize, reeducate, and follow best practices moving forward. Out LGBTQ athletes are driving acceptance and progress on the world stage. Journalists have a responsibility to all viewers and readers to cover them accurately and respectfully."
ORIGINAL: Skateboarder Alana Smith made history this week when they became the first nonbinary athlete to compete for Team USA in this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, but the occasion was marred when multiple announcers misgendered Smith during their live television coverage.
The misgendering happened on multiple networks and from multiple commentators, the likes of which included NBC Sports' Todd Harris and Paul Zitzer and the BBC's Marc Churchill and Ed Leigh.
"Nervous times for...Alana Smith," commentators said during Smith’s heat, before referring to them using she/her pronouns.
Perhaps anticipating such a debacle, the 20-year-old skater from Mesa, Arizona, had their they/them pronouns emblazoned on their skateboard, which they proudly displayed both online and at the games, but to no avail.
Viewers were outraged, and social media lit up with comments calling out the misgendering. One commenter described the coverage as "pretty garbage" for repeatedly misgendering Smith.
Another commenter called the coverage "journalistic malpractice" and a sign that "sports doesn’t know what to do with nonbinary athletes."
Cyd Zeigler of OutSports tells Out he had reached out to Smith to correctly identify their pronouns when writing a profile on the Olympian. He said Smith confirmed their pronouns and that NBC should have done the same.
"They screwed up," Zeigler tells Out. "They should have reached out and checked for the right pronouns. I reached out to Alana before I wrote my first article and asked for their pronouns. It’s not that hard."
One BBC Sport commentator who wasn’t covering the event, Tim Warwood, said he received no guidance from the BBC regarding Smith’s pronouns and that he suspected his fellow commentators had not as well. He said he was "sure the boys would of course apologize to Alana" for their error.
Despite high hopes of earning a medal at their first Olympics, Smith didn't qualify for the medal round, missing four of five landings in their two attempts. They achieved netted scores of 1.25 in their final heats, compared to Funa Nakayama’s winning scores of 15.77. While the results were not what Smith had hoped for, it’s clear they will continue their quest for gold, growth, and acceptance.
"Skateboarding gives you the space to be able to be yourself and grow as a human and be supported throughout the entire way," Smith said on their Team USA biography, adding, "I just want to be known as a good skater, someone that made a difference. Gender shouldn’t matter."