American Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas responded after being criticized for not having her right hand over her heart as the national anthem played during the U.S. gymnastic’s gold medal ceremony at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 9.
“First I want to say thank you everyone for all your support! It’s a huge honor for me to be able to represent #TeamUSA. In response to a few tweets I saw tonight, I always stand at attention out of respect for our country whenever the national anthem is played,” she wrote.
“I never meant any disrespect and apologize if I offended anyone. I’m so overwhelmed at what our team accomplished today and overjoyed that we were able to bring home another gold for our country!”
Unlike the rest of her teammates—Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian—who placed their hands over their hearts, Douglas was photographed with her hands clutched in front of her.
The gesture was deemed disrespectful by some social media users, who took to Twitter to air their displeasure with the Olympian.
— Dawn Wisdom (@Favreforever) August 9, 2016
— Michael Clay (@michaelclayatc) August 9, 2016
— Kimberly Ellen (@KimberlyEllen93) August 10, 2016
Others said they did not understand the controversy.
Gabby Douglas, like any American, has the right to refuse putting their hand on their heart, as long as they participate in standing.
— Megsaurus (@TheQueenofHim) August 10, 2016
I think in elementary school I was taught to only cover my heart for the Pledge, not the National Anthem? #GabbyDouglas
— laurie (@morning_laurie) August 10, 2016
#GabbyDouglas is awesome. From her routines to her hair to her poise, she rocks. Don’t need to put ur hand over ur heart to show respect.
— Mimi (@Mynxmittens) August 10, 2016
Some Twitter users viewed Douglas’ stance as making a political statement and sided with the 20-year-old’s choice.
Kudos #GabbyDouglas . If your people actually knew the racism in words to all 3 verses of that anthem, they might keep their hands down too.
— Greg Carr (@AfricanaCarr) August 11, 2016