Ellen DeGeneres has defended her supposedly “racist” Usain Bolt tweet, but controversy continues to dog the 58-year-old talk show host, IOL News is reporting.
By now you have no doubt heard about the controversy surround Ellen’s tweet, but if you haven’t, here’s the background story: at the Rio Olympics on Sunday, Jamaican runner — and possibly one of the greatest track & field athletes of all time — Usain Bolt was coasting to an easy win in the 100-meter men’s semifinal when he looked over his shoulder and flashed a winning smile.
The photo would go on to become one of the most popular, and most endearing, shots to emerge from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
And because this is the era of social media, the photo quickly became a meme on the internet, with users around the world adding their own take on the iconic moment.
— PAPER Magazine (@papermagazine) August 15, 2016
Enter Ellen DeGeneres. As one of the most social media-savvy celebrities out there, she wasn’t going to let a moment like this pass. So on Monday, Ellen posted the following tweet, showing her photoshopped body riding piggyback on top of a smiling Usain Bolt.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 15, 2016
The image of a white woman riding piggyback on a black man struck many observers as racist, and the tweet generated an intense backlash, according to WJLA (Washington, D.C.)
“You thought it’d be funny to post a pic of yourself riding on the back of a black man? Nope. Delete this racist garbage.”
“Dear @TheEllenShow: Whatever intern thought this tweet was a good idea should be fired. Immediately.”
“‘An apology won’t do. This is utterly [redacted] ridiculous. How dare you!?!?”
On Tuesday, Ellen addressed the controversy via a short and rather direct tweet.
I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 16, 2016
So was the tweet racist or offensive?
That, of course, is a matter of opinion, and if you ask a hundred different people you will get a hundred different answers.
Usain Bolt, for his part, doesn’t seem to have been phased by the tweet, and in fact re-tweeted it himself, without comment. As of this writing, Bolt hasn’t publicly commented on the tweet. He has, however, appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the past.
It bears noting that, throughout her career, Ellen DeGeneres has long been a vocal supporter of equality. According to an August, 2012, report in the Advocate, Ellen summed up her views when it comes to equality with a profound quote.
“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
In fact, DeGeneres is all too familiar with the effects of prejudice and discrimination. Growing up in the deep south as a closeted lesbian, and then forging a career after having come out, she’s experienced the effects of homophobia. This spring, speaking in response to a controversial anti-LGBTQ law in Mississippi, Ellen spoke about the effects of homophobia on her career, in remarks via the Huffington Post.
“I was fired for being gay, and I know what it feels like. I lost everything, but look at me now.”
Do you think Ellen DeGeneres’ Usain Bolt tweet was racist and offensive?
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]