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U.S. Olympians: gold-worthy performances in social protest; in athletic competition not so much

U.S. athletes failed to deliver a medal on the first day of competition, something that hasn't happened in nearly 50 years.

Updated: July 27, 2021 - 11:07pm

If the Tokyo Olympics offered medals for protesting, the U.S. team should improve markedly on its thus-far disappointing showing in the games, conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza recently cracked.

"Let's award medals for the best kneeling performance, the best Black Power salute, the most exhibitionistic media tantrum," D'Souza suggested on GETTR.

He may have a point.

The U.S. Olympic team is off to a sluggish start in Tokyo, to put it mildly. U.S. athletes failed to deliver a medal on the first day of competition, something that hasn't happened in nearly 50 years.

It's only gotten worse from there.

The women's soccer team, expected to snag the gold, got shut out in its very first match against Sweden. That shocker ended the team's 44-game unbeaten streak, and it couldn't have come at a worse time.

They beat an overmatched New Zealand squad 6-1 but had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Australia to squeak into the next round.

The squad, most notably lavender-locked team captain Megan Rapinoe, famously kneel before each game, but not during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem. Other teams in the Olympics also kneel before games to protest racism.

The formerly invincible USA basketball squad is nothing of the sort these days. The team got manhandled by France in the first basketball matchup after staggering through the preliminary round. The French ballers outscored the USA 16-2 in the game's waning moments.

This isn't the Dream Team of yore, either on or off the court. The NBA aggressively promoted Black Lives Matter during the recently completed season. Team coach Gregg Popovich has relentlessly attacked President Donald Trump in the past — dubbing him a “deranged idiot" — and also supported BLM messaging. 

Weeks before the Olympic games began, U.S. Olympic hopeful Gwen Berry protested her own country after coming in third in the hammer throw trials. She turned her back on the U.S. flag to comment on racism, inspiring howls of protest from across the country and Texas Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Dan Crenshaw. The latter asked for her removal from the team. Berry is still expected to compete in the games. 

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles, who has promoted Black Lives Matter, pulled out of the team competition, initially citing a vague "medical issue." The U.S. women's gymnasts failed to snag a gold medal in the team final for the first time since 2008, settling for a silver against the Russian team's gold-winning effort, another shocking turn for the heavily hyped squad.

Biles later said her withdrawal wasn't due to any physical issue.

"It's been really stressful this Olympic Games," Biles said, per Michele Steele. "It's been a long week, a long Olympic process, a long year. I think we're a little too stressed out — we should be out here having fun and that's just not the case."

“The mental is not there," she added.

There's still plenty of time left for Team USA to rebound from its tepid start, including a rebound from the women's soccer team.

The games' weak ratings may be one consequence of U.S. athletes' insistent political messaging and subpar competitive performance. The nation's attention appears to be elsewhere at the moment. 

The opening ceremonies drew 17 million viewers stateside, a 37% drop from 2016, and the lowest tally since the 1988 Seoul Games. 

The 2021 games are being played without audiences due to ongoing COVID-19 fears and restrictions, and many competitors are masked during both the ceremonial moments and while waiting to perform.

Sports ratings in general are on the decline, with possible factors including pandemic fatigue, the surreal vision of empty arenas and audiences exhausted by incessant progressive messaging.

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