Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sometimes, a Monkey Is Just a Monkey

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sometimes, a Monkey Is Just a Monkey

Article excerpt

Last week, NBC apologized for running a house ad featuring a monkey doing gymnastics at the Olympics. The spot ran after sportscaster Bob Costas delivered a short commentary about gymnast Gabby Douglas' brilliant performance at the London Olympics.

Mr. Costas said he hoped Ms. Douglas' performance would inspire other young African-American girls to consider a similar path to Olympics glory. After the sportscaster's commentary, NBC cut to the promo for its upcoming sitcom "Animal Practice," featuring a chimp decked out in Olympics attire.

Usain Bolt himself wouldn't have been able to keep up with the conspiracy theories that tumbled out of the Twitterverse within seconds of the commercial airing.

The tweets quickly reflected a consensus among a multi-racial cohort of social media adepts that airing the commercial minutes after Ms. Douglas' performance was a racist provocation on NBC's part.

"Gabby wins gold, Bob Costas gives a racially sensitive speech, then NBC airs an ad featuring a black skinned, gymnastics monkey #NBCfail" a white male tweeter posted.

"NBC, what was that Monkey commercial after Gabby? We are not stupid," a black female tweeter wrote.

Because NBC was already on thin ice with millions of viewers because of its broadcast delays and clumsy coverage of the opening ceremonies, a pointless racial taunt didn't seem beyond the pale as far as its critics were concerned.

NBC quickly issued a statement in response to the controversy: "Gabby Douglas' gold medal performance last night was a historic and inspiring achievement. This spot promoting 'Animal Practice,' which has run three times previously, is one in a series with an Olympic theme which have been scheduled for maximum exposure. Certainly no offense was intended."

When I think of gymnasts, I typically think Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton.

You can count Olympic-caliber black gymnasts on one hand (thus the need for Mr. Costas' commentary).

Would NBC go through all of that trouble and expense of making a commercial just to insult a handful of black athletes?

Still, NBC had to apologize quickly because people really are stupid enough to believe any conspiracy theory if it is convenient enough to address their immediate anxieties. …

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