In recent months, mental health has risen to the forefront in the realm of sports. Tennis star Naomi Osaka’s unexpected loss at the Games, along with Simone Biles pulling out of the Olympics earlier this week due to mental health issues has created an important conversation for a topic that was once considered “taboo” in the aforementioned athletes’ demanding profession.
Although there has been massive support for Biles’ and Osaka’s decisions, there are also many people who oppose, or don’t fully understand the pressure that is placed on celebrities of their caliber. Following the news of Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Michael Che chose to publicly comment about the gymnast on social media – including reposting a joke about Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused her as well as countless other athletes.
“Man, I wanna make fun of Simone Biles,” Che wrote, before adding, “I got like 3 mins of Simone Biles jokes in my head. I’m going to the cellar tonight to say them into a microphone. As the dorky kids say, I’m choosing violence.”
His social media posts led to other Instagram users sending their own jokes about Simone Biles. The 38-year-old Weekend Update co-anchor posted some of these comments on his personal account. One of those since-deleted stories on Instagram included one user saying: “Larry Nassar understands Simone Biles better than anyone. He too had to quit doing what he loved at the pinnacle of his career because of mounting pressure.” Michael Che captioned the re-post and “graded” it, giving it a 9/10.
Baller Alert, along with other accounts, screenshotted Che’s comments on Twitter prior to them being taken down. Many social media users condemned the SNL comedian for finding humor in the trauma of Simone Biles and other sexual assault victims.
Amid this backlash, Che claimed that his account had been hacked, and also referenced the homophobic comments made by DaBaby during Rolling Loud this past weekend. “Maaannnn, I got hacked today. Can’t believe they got me. Y’all know I only do jokes about whites and cops.” Che sarcastically wrote. “It’s all good now, I changed my password and everything… Anyway, y’all hear about DaBaby tho? That’s crazy. Iight. See y’all in church. Imma get there early.”
As a result of his jokes, many people challenged NBC and HBO to sever ties with the comedian. At press time, neither of these networks have provided commentary on Che’s controversial posts.
Biles’ situation, as well as many others, is no laughing matter. Biles withdrew from the team final and Thursday’s all-around final because of a mental block common within the gymnast community. Hopefully, the gold-medalist will return to form both inside, and outside of her sport.