Here we go again. Yet another prominent figure on the world stage makes the tragic mistake of trying to ridicule someone else (or himself) by name calling. And in this case, Swiss football player, Michel Morganella not only called his South Korean opponents a name, but the slang he used is equated to calling someone “mentally retarded.”

Just typing those words make my stomach knot. But there it is again. Who can we ridicule with impunity? Those who with intellectual disabilities are often too kind and too quiet to counter. Who do we call out to humiliate our adversaries? Those who are tragically accustomed to humiliation. Who do we need to degrade in order to assert ourselves? Those who keep trying to claim their voice against all odds only to be scoffed at as they are trying to be heard.

Enough. Morganella has been sent home, cast out of the Olympic games. Rightly so. Perhaps he will have a moment to reflect and collect himself. I hope so. Deliberate malice exists but it rarely comes from the core. At our best, we all aspire to goodness. I hope Morganella will find it at home.

The rest of us are left to reflect and refresh. Why does this odious stereotype rear its head so often? How can we heal it and create communities that are safe from this type of bullying and ridicule? How can we embrace more fully the grit and fearlessness and reckless openness that so many people with intellectual disabilities–those who look small in the world– bring in the biggest way to our lives?

The Olympic games are about winners. But the Olympic spirit recognizes that there are many ways to win. Bravery, courage, joy, and grit are their own rewards. Morganella didn’t show them this time so he will not be counted as a winner. But many people all over the world–athletes of Olympic greatness who also happen to have intellectual disabilities–show it everyday. Although they’re not competing in London, they’re winners in more ways than Morgella can imagine.

Let’s join them in sport and in life. Once and for all: end the names. And in their place? Play the games!  And perhaps Morganella will join Special Olympics in South Korea in 2013 where they will be showcasing to the world the meaning of the true Olympic spirit at the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang.

17 thoughts on “End the Name Calling!

  1. I wish name calling stops and no special Olympics athlete does’nt deserve to be called names

    Meghan O’Donovan a Special Olympic athlete of Stratford Ontario

  2. In all actuality, I think the ones that make remarks like this is when they need to spend time with these kids and just show them that they have bigger hearts and bigger minds and they don’t have to downgrade someone to be bigger or smarter than the next person. They are very smart in their own right and deserve the respect because they put up with disrespectful people like that.

  3. once again someone says the r-word. Every time I hear someone say that I stop in my tracks and look for the person that proclaimed that horrible term . I then inform them that that term is offensive to everyone. I have a younger sister that I have had to protect my whole life from
    people like that. For goodness sake, when will it stop.

  4. What about the Swedish administrator who called it an “insult to the Koreans” but did not mention those with DS. He seems to have implied by omission that using people with DS as a punchline was okay as long as it doesn’t drag in another group of people.

  5. Lots of words are “marginalizing” to a lot people with disabilities who are mentally handicapped. But they aren’t all obsessed with ridding the world of those words.

  6. Excellent article, very well written! I couldn’t agree more, this sterotype and this word need to be put to bed! Articles like this make it clear that no one appreciates this language and that it needs to end!

    • Guess the dignity of people with intellectual disabilites wasn’t as important in the following: “In Morganella’s case, he “discriminated against, insulted and violated the dignity” of the South Korean team, as well as the nation’s citizens, Swiss committee chief Gian Gilli said Monday in a statement at a news conference.”
      TIME FOR CHANGE!!!!!!!!!

  7. know what its like to hear the r word and it should not be allowed any where iam a special olympian and athletes need to not use the r word please help me spread the word please dont use the r word around athletes they are people too

  8. I am sick and tired of how easily the word “retard” or “retarded”, roll off the tongues of so many people! Having a child with Down Syndrome, I take complete offense to it! If anyone uses the word in front of me, I immediately correct them!

  9. From what I’ve read, an even bigger tragedy is that the press reported the incident as a racist slur against Koreans, and totally left out the R word slur that Morganella used. Until the press, social media and the entertainment world fully understand how marginalizing the R word is, they will continue to overlook the hurt that our community experiences when we hear it.

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