Media Embraces Simone Biles after Shocking Withdrawal from Olympics

The dramatic withdrawal of Simone Biles, one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic final, has once again revived the discussion around media coverage of  mental health in sports. 

The last time this debate captured the attention of the global press was in May and June, when tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open and avoided Wimbledon citing mental health concerns. 

We decided to deploy our News API to take a closer look at media coverage and how Biles’ withdrawal was portrayed by news sites around the world.

Instead of using the Document-Level Sentiment Analysis, which determines the sentiment of a news article as a whole, we used our Entity-Level News Sentiment, which helps measuring the sentiment associated with an entity (person, place, or thing) – so Simone Biles in our case, within a news article.

Using a sample of dozens of thousands of news articles published over the past 24 hours across the globe, we were able to determine that 69.3% were positive in comparison to 30.7% of them which were negative.

pie chart 2

One of the news articles we found to have a positive sentiment was published by the BBC, centering around the praise Simone Biles received for “prioritizing mental wellness over all else after pulling out of the Olympic women’s team final” (as seen in the picture).

BBC Simone Biles

We did find a few news articles that included negative mentions of Simone Biles, including the following one from the Daily Beast (see in picture below) that cites Talk radio hosts Clay Travis and Buck Sexton, who used their show to blast Biles for admitting her withdrawal was due to mental health issues:

The article stated: “The blue checks have already rallied to Simone Biles’s defense and said, ‘Oh, it’s so brave,’” Travis sneered, prompting Sexton to add: “Why is this brave? What’s brave about not being brave? Cause that’s what we’re talking about here. This is ‘Oh, you didn’t stand up to the bully?’ So to speak… No, I think that’s the not brave move.”

Here is the story in our feed:

Simone biles negative

When analyzing sentiments in relations to certain people, places or any other entities, it is important to remember that a holistic view of the news sentiment of an article isn’t sufficient. An article might be positive on the whole, while most of the entities mentioned could have an associated negative sentiment. 

The article-level sentiment can also affect the entity-level sentiment. Different entities can also have widely different sentiments. For example, Simone Biles’ name might have a positive sentiment while the USA team might have a negative sentiment or vice-a-versa. 

Whether the media will continue to portray mental health champions in sports in a good light in the long run, it’s hard to say. But what we do know is that for now, Simone Biles is widely celebrated for raising awareness of mental health concerns.

Want to learn how you can use high-quality NLP-enriched news to learn more about your product or application? Contact our data experts today!


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