Simone Biles is currently one of the most talked-about athletes on the planet. Her decision to pull out of gymnastics competitions at the Summer Olympics in order to protect her mental health was met with support, vitriol, understanding, and mockery.
Following the news of Simone Biles’s withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics, Michael Che chose to publicly comment about the 24-year-old gymnast on social media. The Saturday Night Live comedian was met with widespread backlash for his public statements.
“Man, I wanna make fun of Simone Biles,” wrote Michael Che, before adding, “I got like 3 mins of Simone Biles jokes in my head. I’m going to the [Comedy Cellar club] tonight to say them into a microphone. As the dorky kids say, I’m choosing violence.”
Those comments led to other Instagram users direct messaging Michael Che their own jokes about Simone Biles. The 38-year-old Weekend Update co-anchor reposted a few of those DMs to his Instagram Story.
One person wrote, “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, “G###### that’s rough. Absolutely tasteless. 9/10.”
Simone Biles is one of more than 150 women and girls who accused Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for the United States women’s national gymnastics team, of sexual abuse. Nassar pled guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.
Many social media users began condemning Michael Che for sharing a response that made fun of Simone Biles and other sexual assault survivors’ trauma. Che deleted the stories and added another post claiming he was the victim of a hacker.
“Maaannnn, I got hacked today. Can’t believe they got me. Y’all know I only do jokes about whites and cops. [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 the Larry Nassar joke, some people online are calling for NBC (the network home of Saturday Night Live) and HBO (the network home of the That Damn Michael Che series) to cut ties with Michael Che. Neither company has yet to comment on the controversy.
Self-described gender justice advocate Farrah Khan tweeted, “Larry Nassar sexually assaulted over 300 gymnasts including Simone Biles. Jokes about this immense violence are never okay. @hbomax @nbcsnl why is Michael Che still on your roster?”
The Undefeated writer Soraya McDonald tweeted, “How nice for Michael Che never to have been denied the sanctity of his own body because of his gender. How nice for him not to be judged and gaslit repeatedly because it is routine to treat an entire gender and their experiences with disregard and contempt. How lovely for him.”