Nathan Chen at Maruzen Intec Arena Osaka on April 14, 2021 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/International Skating Union/Getty)
Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen has apologised after giving an “ignorant” remark about the sport being “homosexual-dominated”.
Chen, 22, is a three-time world champion skater and world record holder competing on the American team, for which he won a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Games.
In a video statement released on Tuesday (27 July), he acknowledged that he gave an “ignorant” response on a podcast in answer to a question about patriarchal stereotypes in skating.
Asked whether he’s ever been advised to play hockey because it’s more “masculine,” Chen replied: “Yes, certainly. Especially as a male athlete… as a straight male athlete in a fairly homosexual-dominated sport, or LGBTQ-dominated sport.
“I think that there is that connotation and there is that ‘Well we don’t really wanna watch guys skate around’, and we’d rather watch hockey or we’d rather watch females do that, which I think is pretty messed up in itself,” he continued.
“It’s a genuine sport, we spend our whole lives trying to hone this craft, and to just sort of be belittled like that is not something that is generally taken lightly.”
OMG they took down the interview from youtube. luckily i saved it on my phone. we aren’t going to forget. pic.twitter.com/Bf16fj2W1h
— prince ༊ (@quadtoeIoop) July 24, 2021
Nathan Chen ‘implied he is oppressed by queerness’, says figure skater
The clumsy comment saw Chen accused of perpetuating standards of toxic masculinity and homophobia.
“Basically Nathan Chen had the opportunity to use his in-sport privilege to: support queer athletes as an ally, talk about how figure skating is for everyone, discuss the types of expression rewarded at competition,” commented the non-binary figure skater Racheline Maltese.
“Instead he: told us he was straight, equated feminine with queer and implied they were both negative, implied he is oppressed by queerness in the sport.
“AND ignored Olympians who said in the last month they couldn’t come out while competing as they were worried about the impact on scores when their job as skaters is to tell heterosexual love stories.”
With the criticism mounting online, Nathan Chen issued an apology that acknowledged that his remarks were hurtful.
“I recently did an interview where I was asked if people ever ask me why I don’t play hockey because of the connotation that skating is quote-unquote feminine and hockey is quote-unquote masculine. I gave an ignorant response to the question and I want to apologise for that,” he said.
“In that moment I had the opportunity to shut down the perception that there is such a thing as a masculine or feminine sport and to shed light that these perceptions have created an environment that make it unsafe, stigmatising and even career-ending for athletes to come out.
“Skating is an art form as much as it is a sport, and the beauty in that is that there is room for individual expression and that’s something that should be celebrated,” he continued.
“But instead of saying something meaningful I blurted out statements that aren’t even true, used language that’s harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community and to women and minorities and centered the response around myself.
“This was my chance to build toward more inclusivity in the sport and I messed it up.”