In the midst of the men’s downhill Alpine skiing event Thursday at the Olympics, Bode Miller wound up apologizing to NBC viewers for something he said during the first run of the women’s giant slalom earlier in the day. The six-time medal winner, in his first stint as an announcer at the Games, had linked the struggles on the slope of Austria’s Anna Veith to the fact that she got married in 2016.
A 2014 gold medalist in the Super-G and a 2015 world champion in that event and the giant slalom, Vieth suffered severe knee injuries that caused her to miss the 2015-16 season and much of the next. She has had just two top-three finishes in World Cup events since then, and she posted the 15th-fastest time in Thursday’s first run.
As Veith was coming down the slope in PyeongChang, NBC announcer Dan Hicks noted that she has “not been the same” since her injuries. “The knee is certainly an issue,” Miller replied. “I want to point out she also got married.
“And it’s historically very challenging to race on the World Cup with a family or after being married,” Miller, 40, continued.
“Not to blame the spouses, but I just want to toss that out there, that it could be her husband’s fault.”
Miller’s comments immediately drew condemnation online from viewers. “I’m sorry, did Bode Miller just blame the fact that this skier got married for the fact that she’s not doing as well?” one asked. “Please, mansplain a little more, you don’t already annoy me enough.”
Hicks did not immediately respond to Miller’s remarks, but later in the day, as the men’s downhill was taking place, the announcer set his partner up for an apology, albeit while claiming that Miller “meant well.” Calling his comments about Veith an “ill-advised attempt at a joke, Miller said, “I do apologize.”
“I was an athlete that competed after marriage, and I know how beneficial it is. I know the support team you need,” continued Miller, who got married in 2012, won a bronze at the Sochi Games in 2014 and retired from competitive skiing last year.
“On Valentine’s Day, I did not mean to throw spouses under the bus, and I’m going to be hearing it from my wife, I know.”
Miller subsequently took to Twitter to further clarify his remarks. “To be clear I was not seriously blaming Anna Veith’s lack of results on her husband,” he said. “It’s a changing of priorities that is historically hard, male or female.”
It remains to be seen if NBC offers further comment or takes any action regarding Miller. After the Opening Ceremonies Friday, the network apologized to citizens of the host nation, South Korea, for comments in which analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo suggested that they were grateful for Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation.
Elsewhere during the Opening Ceremonies, NBC’s Katie Couric struck a nerve among Dutch people by claiming that skating is “an important mode of transportation” when canals in the Netherlands freeze over. On Monday, she tweeted, “My apologies for being on thin ice for my comments re: skating on canals. I was trying to salute your historical passion for the sport but it didn’t come out that way!”
Shortly thereafter, NBC was forced to explain that it showed snowboarder Red Gerard’s slopestyle triumph — giving the U.S. its first gold of the PyeongChang Games — on a tape delay, causing annoyed viewers to receive alerts about his victory well before the network televised it, because it made a priority of showing live figure skating. On top of that, the delayed telecast included a profanity uttered by the 17-year-old Gerard after he won, prompting anchor Mike Tirico to apologize for the “enthusiasm”-related obscenity.
Miller developed a reputation as the “bad boy” of U.S. skiing, particularly during the 2006 Olympics in Turin, when he missed the podium in all five of his races, completing just two and later saying that he “got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” He rebounded with a gold, a silver and a bronze at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and is regarded as the greatest male Alpine skier in U.S. history.
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