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Podium Politics: Two Medal Ceremonies, Two Different Reactions

While Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas was called “unpatriotic” and “un-American” during the Olympic games, many are calling out a double standard.
Rio 2016 Olympics: Artistic Gymnastics
Gold medallists Kocian Madison, Lauren Hernandez, Gabrielle Douglas, and Simone Biles (L-R) of the United States pose at a victory ceremony for the artistic gymnastics women's team final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at the Rio Olympic Arena.Valery Sharifulin/TASS

While Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas was called “disrespectful,” “unpatriotic” and “un-American” during the 2016 Rio Olympic games, many are calling out a double standard.

Last week harsh criticism surrounded her hairstyle selection, her attitude and the fact that she did not place her hand over her heart during the national anthem.

"Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart [on the medal podium] or I look depressed. ... It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It's been kind of a lot to deal with," said Douglas during her last post-competition interview around the increased negative attention.

Days later, after the United States men’s shot put team dominated the medal podium, winners Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovac failed to do the very same thing—they did not put their hands over their heart during the medal ceremony anthem.

Confusion surfaced, instead of outrage, after the win.

Director of the Film, "Olympic Pride, American Prejudice”, Deborah Riley Draper, compares the seminal moments of the 1936 Berlin games—which had 18 African American Olympians, including Jesse Owens—to the seminal moments of 2016.

"When I look at Gabby Douglas, I think about Louise Stokes and Tidye Pickett and what they went through in 1932 and 1936—the humiliation and embarrassment," Draper told NBCBLK, referencing the first black women to make the Olympic team.

Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, had had enough, telling critics to stop bullying her daughter.

"She's had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn't smiling enough, she's unpatriotic.Then it went to not supporting your teammates. Now you’re “Crabby Gabby,” Hawkins' shared according to Reuters.

As details emerged about Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte destroying property and lying about a traumatic robbery at gunpoint, there was yet another contrast: he was described in some reports as a “kid” who deserves “a break.” (Though Today Show anchor Al Roker pushed back on Lochte's wrist-slap treatment on Friday.)

In an interview with Matt Lauer, the swimmer said he "over-exaggerated that story" and chalked it up to "immature behavior."

RELATED: Ryan Lochte on Rio Incident: 'I Over-Exaggerated That Story'

So what is the difference?

Draper calls it "a double standard," as Douglas' punishment exceeded the crime—when there wasn't even a crime committed. But when a crime actually took place—four male swimmers getting away with lying to officials—there was no punishment.

Silver medalist, Joe Kovacs, gold medalist, Ryan Crouserand bronze medalist, Tomas Walsh of New Zealand, on the podium during the medal ceremony for the men'??s shot put final on August 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

"We unconsciously give these gentlemen greater protection, greater privilege, greater latitude," said Draper. "But we question Douglas patriotism?"

Draper describes the irony and paradox of how Douglas continues to have to prove her patriotism after putting everything into competing for her country—winning gold medals in back-to-back Olympics.

On both sides, Draper says that the 2016 Olympics can be used as an opportunity for change.

"We don't want this to be our message," said Draper. "We want the message to be that we love all of our athletes and we want them all to do well."