A California Newspaper Apologizes For Its Racist Headline About Simone Manuel’s Win

There were a lot of shitty things that happened at the Rio Olympics this year, but this California newspaper’s racist Simone Manuel headline wins the Gold Medal Of Shitty Things. Manuel won the gold medal for the 100-meter freestyle on Thursday night, the very same night Michael Phelps won his own medals. To report on the news of the medal winners, San Jose’s Mercury News ran a headline reading, “Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.”

It’s sexist and racist, all at the same time. I mean, that’s a feat of ignorance. They have since updated the headline and issued an apology, but what’s done is done. It’s pretty fucked up on a lot of levels. Even reporters who work for The Mercury News were tweeting about how bad the headline was. Sports columnist Tim Kawakami tweeted while the story was still live and racist, “This is a terrible headline. It’s my paper. I might get in trouble for saying it, but it’s a terrible headline.”

According to the Associated Press, executive editor Neil Chase said, “We made a mistake,” but that since there didn’t seem to be any bad intention behind the “mistake,” as he calls it, no one will be fired. Which, OK, fine. But someone needs to have a good talking to about how to write headlines and not be an asshole all at the same time.

It’s especially amazing because not only did the headline boil it down to Phelps, the male swimming god, and a random “African-American” the paper couldn’t be bothered to name, but it also ignored the fact that Manuel’s gold medal was a big fucking deal. Phelps winning another medal to add to his stack is great, but Manuel’s gold medal was historic.

The headline now reads, “Olympics: Stanford’s Simone Manuel and Michael Phelps make history.” But a white dude-bro winning a gold medal isn’t shit. Manuel is the first black American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event. And it’s important not just because she’s black woman, but because there was once a time when Americans didn’t even let black people in the pool because they were so racist. Her victory a big fucking deal, even though it’s a shame it took this long.


Manuel gets it. After winning, she told NBC: “It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.”

Her win is a sign of progress, despite all of the horrible violence and racism that persist and that Black Lives Matter even has to exist. But after seeing that terrible headline? It seems like a lot of people still haven’t gotten the message.