She became the first African American woman ever to win an individual swimming medal at the Olympics.
Manuel tied for first with Canadian Penny Oleksiak in the 100 meter freestyle. Her reaction to finding out she won was so sweet, it was near unbearable.
She was understandably weepy in a post-race interview and on the medal stand. During the interview, she said:
The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport.
For people who believe that they can’t do it, I hope I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming. You might be pretty good at it.
It was pretty inspirational — especially given America’s racial history around swimming and pools.
But then, the San Jose Mercury News had to go and make it all bad with a horrific headline.
Yup, the paper referred to Manuel as “African American.” Not by her name, not by “swimmer,” not even by making it clear she was a female athlete who won a medal.
Nope, just “African American.”
This is similar to one of Donald Trump’s controversial statements. If you remember, back in June, Trump said:
Oh, look at my African American over here. Look at him.
Good work, guys!
People were outraged over this headline and with good reason. The headline diminished Manuel, her achievement and her identity.
Instead of “gold medal winning, history-making athlete and African American woman,” Manuel became just some “African American” who happened to be there when Michael Phelps won yet another medal.
The San Jose Mercury News did eventually apologize in a tweet.
At least, unlike Trump, the newspaper owned up to its mistake and openly called it “insensitive.” The headline has since been updated to include Manuel’s name — and put it before Phelps.