It has been a very harsh Rio Olympics for gymnast Gabby Douglas. As one of the big stars of 2012’s Team USA women’s gymnastics lineup, 2016 saw the 20-year-old Douglas settle for the consolation prize of winning the team gold medal with her fellow Americans. It also saw her deal with the controversy of not putting her hand on her heart while the Star-Spangled Banner played to mark Team USA’s gold medal victory.

Then there was nitpicking about her hair, her inability to smile, and loads of unpleasant comments made about her on social media. Add to her disappointing performance in individual events, and it was not an Olympics to remember for Douglas.

Douglas clears the air in recent statements

Last week, many thought that Douglas had appeared unpatriotic when she was the only gymnastics team member not to place her hand on her heart during the team all-around medal awarding ceremony last Wednesday.

Many viewers had taken to Twitter to accuse her of not saluting the flag like a good American should, even if many other American athletes don’t put their hands on their chests during the singing or playing of the national anthem. But in her defense, Douglas explained that it is her custom to stand at attention in respect to the national anthem, tweeting that she didn’t mean to disrespect or offend anybody through her actions.

Another big point of contention was how Douglas appeared to show some bitterness last Thursday, when her teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman won the gold and silver medals respectively in the individual all-around. Unlike fellow Team USA members Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian, Douglas didn’t acknowledge her teammates’ victory by standing and cheering. Many had pointed out that Douglas, who was third place in the qualifying round, didn’t make the finals due to a technicality prohibiting countries from fielding three athletes in the all-around final.

In a statement, Douglas apologized for looking like she was “really mad” on Thursday’s individual all-around awarding. She said that she was supporting Raisman, who had failed to win the gold medal, and that she supports her teammates regardless of what happens. According to Douglas, it was not her intent to appear jealous, and that she “still (loves)” her teammates in any case.

Douglas also upset with 'negativity' on social media

Social media tends to be a savage beast, and it’s more often than not when a good number of users tend to be unwilling to forgive, and more willing to dwell on the negative side of issues than listen when someone is clearing the air.

That was a main talking point of Douglas’sinterview with ESPN’s Johnette Howard, as she expressed disappointment in the “hurtful” things said about her on social media platforms.

According to Douglas, she has tried to avoid the Internet due to the “negativity” expressed on Twitter and other platforms – she mentioned small issues such as her hair, and bigger ones such as her hand not placed over her heart during the aforementioned team all-around medal ceremony.

She said that “it’s been kind of a lot to deal with,” tearfully adding later on that she really did not mean to disrespect the United States through her actions.

Is Douglas cyberbullying a race issue?

Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, had also expressed her views on the matter in an interview with Reuters. She said that she doesn’t understand why her daughter has been the target of so much online hate, particularly with the “#CrabbyGabby” hashtag trending last week. She also opened up regarding the issue of whether the issue may be racially-driven; Douglas, who is black, was mainly picked on by white Twitter users.

Hawkins told Reuters that while people, white and black alike, have told her that her daughter may have been picked on due to her race, it’s something she doesn’t want to believe. But she also admitted to noticing a large number of blacks on Twitter asking whether it was “just the white people”taking part in the cyberbullying.

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