Patria-Kaye Aarons | KLAS-less move
KLAS ESPN Sports FM ran a tasteless piece of journalism online about Jamaica's first gymnast. The headline 'Toni-Ann Williams - Jamaica's sweetheart or America's reject' set the tone for an attack on her right to a spot on our national Olympic team, and questioning her commitment to Jamaica under the guise of 'people say'.
Reading the article's headline, you would come away thinking that Toni-Ann tried out for the American gymnastics team and didn't make it. No evidence was given to support that suggestion.
The body of the article went in a different direction, painting Williams as purely opportunistic and implying that Toni-Ann was simply using Jamaica as a "back-door entry to the Olympics". It suggested that because the USA team was too tough for her to get into, a grateful Jamaica would be low-hanging fruit and that she was only motivated to create media hype for herself.
I'm going to assume that the writer knows little about the personal and financial sacrifice Williams went through to get here, and how little monetary support she got from Jamaica. I'm also going to assume he has never seen a Toni-Ann interview and the love for Jamaica that oozes from her pores.
The article makes reference to "a swarm of reviews on social media, with scores of persons lashing out and verbalising criticisms that Toni-Ann Williams opted to represent Jamaica only by default". Sweeping words that would suggest hordes of people disapproving of Williams representing the black, green and gold.
I searched both the Twitter and Facebook history and couldn't find the swarm of negative comments to which the writer made reference. That was my first red flag. Perhaps I was searching wrong. Writers are sometimes accused of having a flair for exaggeration, and I have a strong suspicion this is a glaring case of that. With seemingly so much online venom to choose from, the article only cited three of those scores of objections. My second red flag.
When KLAS posted this article on its Facebook page, of all the posts, only two reflected negatively towards Williams. Two certainly does not a swarm make. In fact, in opposition, I did find an actual swarm of people upset by the article and coming to Williams' defence. Real scores of people lashed out at anyone speaking ill of the athletes, and others were downright mad at KLAS ESPN for giving this story any sort of credence and publishing it.
EVEN MORE OFFENSIVE
To save face, KLAS put out a second article more offensive than the first. An obvious attempt at damage control, their follow-up article was titled 'Toni-Ann Williams, Play fool fi ketch wise.'
In either a dumb move of epic proportions or the sorriest attempt at a PR save, KLAS ESPN's response article pretty much said, "Tricks you. I just wanted to see what you would say after we pissed you off. We really like Toni-Ann."
Really? Here's the attempt at a save which they want us to believe.
"On August 9, 2016, an article titled 'Toni-Ann Williams - Jamaica's sweetheart or America's reject?' was posted on KLAS ESPN Sports FM's website. The decision to publish such an article came as a result of the feedback from individuals on our various social media platforms, i.e., Facebook and Twitter, with an alarming number of persons highlighting they would not be cheering Ms Williams on, as they felt she was not 'truly Jamaican'.
"KLAS ESPN produced this article with the sole purpose of gauging the responses of the nation and to ascertain if these undesirable views were echoed by the majority. In addition, it served the purpose of highlighting all the critics who were lamenting unattractive remarks/feedback under the different postings made by the company."
Wrong move, KLAS ESPN. From start to finish. Jamaicans are fiercely protective of our athletes. Don't mess with them. Classic 'Loving Pauper' style, neither as a country nor as individuals do we have the resources to compensate our athletes for the sacrifices they make for their country, but what we sure make up in is love. We appreciate how they lift our spirits, win, lose or draw, and we know the weight of a nation is heavy, and we thank them for shouldering us all.
Not all Jamaicans live here. Persons who migrate often feel like they only work abroad, but Jamaica is home. Second- and third-generation Jamaicans identify with their Jamaican roots as much as they do the roots of their birth countries. Ask them and they will tell you, "I am Jamaican," even if they have never been here.
Toni-Ann won't be the first Jamaican living abroad to compete for us, and she sure won't be the last, but we don't love her any less. If you mess with just one of us, you mess with a whole nation. Two things our ancestors knew how to do: run and fight. They taught us both. Don't test!