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NBC commentators Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir participate in vulgar video spoof of U.S. Olympian

  • July 03, 2020

NBC Sports commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir participated in a video spoof of 2018 U.S. national figure skating champion and Olympic team bronze medalist Bradie Tennell last month in which a vulgar term for a woman’s groin was used, as well as a joke about a sexual affair.

U.S. Figure Skating, which has been rocked by a series of high-profile allegations of sexual abuse over the past year and a half, issued a statement Thursday evening saying that it “does not condone the descriptions used in this parody,” according to spokesperson Barbara Reichert.

NBC Sports spokesperson Dan Masonson offered a more muted response, emphasizing that it was a spoof, adding, “In retrospect, this sketch could have been completed with generic footage.” The sketch used video of Tennell competing at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

NBC did not mention Tennell in its statement. There was no comment from Lipinski or Weir through NBC Sports.

Tennell could not be reached for comment Thursday evening, said her publicist Lynn Plage, who also said she and Tennell’s agent, Yuki Saegusa, were unaware of the video until receiving a call about it from USA TODAY Sports.

In March 2019, the U.S. Center for SafeSport delivered a chilling assessment of sexual abuse in American skating, saying it discovered “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic gold medalist and CEO of the legal advocacy non-profit Champion Women, said incidents such as this contribute to the problem.

“U.S. Figure Skating has been told pointedly that it has a culture problem, one that makes their athletes uniquely vulnerable to sexual abuse,” she said. “This clip shows skating’s sport-insiders demeaning one of their best athletes by sexualizing her.

“Sadly, we know this happens to girls and women as a regular part of their lives, but the expectation should be that women’s professional work, their roles as elite athletes, should be off limits, and particularly among sport-members. When boundaries aren’t enforced – or even recognized as violations – it sets up the athlete to be abused. This isn’t how to treat one of America’s best athletes and isn’t how to treat colleagues.”

In the promotional video for The At-Home Variety Show on the Peacock streaming service, Lipinski and Weir are joined on a video call by “Pitch Perfect” actors Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins.

After Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic gold medalist, introduces footage of Tennell from the Olympics, she says, “Nice camel spin into a toe loop,” even though Tennell does neither a camel spin nor a toe loop in the footage.

Higgins replies: “Yes, the camel toe. Gail’s very familiar with that one.”

Banks, who plays “Pitch Perfect’s” Gail, says, “I am, I am.”

Moments later, Weir jokes, “I’m really hoping we get to see her quads during this program.” Tennell attempted no quadruple jumps at the Olympics.

Banks replies, “Ah, easy, Johnny, your wife’s sitting right there.”

“Gail, we’re co-workers and besties,” Weir says.

“Oh, I see,” Banks says. “Office romance, gotcha.”

Lipinski posted the video on her Instagram account May 29. Not long after the publication of this story, the video was taken down from her account and from wherever it was previously posted, according to an NBC Sports spokesperson. 

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