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Piers Morgan criticized Simone Biles’ decision to drop out of the gymnastics team finals and for “quitting on her team” in a new column Wednesday, drawing backlash from fans who said the longtime broadcaster was being insensitive to her mental health struggles.
“I don’t think it’s remotely courageous, heroic or inspiring to quit,” Piers wrote in the column, published in the Daily Mail.
“When you call yourself the GOAT in sport, you can’t then quit the moment things get tough or you make a mistake. Something that I’m sure Simone Biles, in her heart, must realise because she’s a great champion and great champions just don’t do that.”
On Tuesday, Biles stunned the world when she announced she’d be dropping out of the gymnastics team finals in Tokyo so she could focus on her mental health and on Wednesday, USA Gymnastics announced she was also opting out of Thursday’s all-around contest.
“Physically, I feel good, I’m in shape,” Biles said of the decision to leave her team, which ended up winning the silver medal in her absence.
“Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat.
“I feel like I’m also not having as much fun. This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself, but I came in and I felt like I was still doing it for other people. It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”
Morgan slammed Biles’ comments and said the Olympics aren’t about “fun,” nor are they for any individual athlete.
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“You are part of Team USA, representing the United States of America, and hundreds of millions of American people watching back home, not to mention all the sponsors who’ve paid huge sums to support you,” Morgan wrote.
“And when you quit, you were performing as part of a gymnastics team, not yourself.”
Twitter users were quick to jump on Morgan’s comments and call him out for walking off the set of “Good Morning Britain” during an argument earlier this year with a co-worker about Meghan Markle, which the broadcaster admitted was “wrong,” “gutless and cowardly” in his column.
Fans of Biles said mental health concerns must be taken seriously and her ability to speak out about them and opt out of the contest was an act of courage.
“When someone takes their own life, the amount of times you hear ‘if only they’d reached out’ but when someone speaks out about their mental health you get tweets like this,” Madz_27 tweeted in response to Morgan.
“I just knew you’d attack Simone like this,” James Donnelly added.
“Have you ever thought that mental health issues has gone on for decades, but because of stigma, taboo, or just scared, it’s been kept secret. But now we are more open to discussing the subject, more will open up. And that IS inspiring.”
Adam Forder wrote “kids need to see that their role models are human beings too” while Milly Gilbert noted the sexual abuse Biles suffered at the hands of sicko sports doctor Larry Nassar.
“She was sexually assaulted over and over again,” Gilbert tweeted.
“She was sexually assaulted and now has her own gym for young girls to protect them.”
About two hours after the column posted, Morgan tweeted a photo of him and Biles and encouraged her to return to the contest.
“You can either listen to snowflake Twitter, @Simone_Biles – or listen to me. You’re a great champion, & great champions get back on their feet when they get knocked down,” Morgan wrote.
“So, re-engage in these Games, win Gold, & inspire with the power of resilience not resignation. Go for it.”
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