Aaron Rodgers Praises Simone Biles for Prioritizing Mental Health at Tokyo Olympics

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 6, 2021

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles poses with her bronze medal for the artistic gymnastics women's balance beam apparatus at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers applauded gymnast Simone Biles on Friday for focusing on her mental health at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Biles, who entered the Games as the heavy favorite to win gold in the individual all-around, pulled out of several events in Tokyo, including the individual all-around, team competition, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise, in the interest of preserving her mental health.

In an interview with Kevin Clark of The Ringer, Rodgers praised Biles, saying:

"I give Simone so much credit for her ability to speak the truth, her truth, and to answer tough questions, and to have the courage to say, 'I'm scared' and 'I don't feel like I should be out there.' She's the greatest gymnast of all time. And mental health [awareness] is an issue that is continuing to break down the stigmas that don't allow us to talk about it or only allow us to talk about it in a super negative, depressive, suicidal way. People of all ages and all professions are dealing with mental issues, especially during COVID. You've seen the suicide hotline [calls] going way up. We've seen so many different statistics around mental health.

"It's something we should be talking about and ways to help people get through it, whether it's techniques or therapy or just conversations letting people know they're not alone. And that's what Simone did. I'm very, very proud of her. I've gotten to know her a little bit at times over the years. And I think what she did and then the way she handled herself, cheering for her teammates, was really special to watch in a tough situation for her. And I give her just a tremendous amount of respect."

While Biles didn't leave Tokyo with a bevy of gold medals, she still won silver in the team competition, and she returned for the final gymnastics event of the Games as well, winning bronze in the balance beam.

Biles fell on her vault attempt during the team competition. After that, she removed herself from the event and was replaced by Jordan Chiles.

Team USA couldn't defend its Olympic gold without Biles, but it did grab silver. The Americans also won gold in the individual all-around, as Suni Lee prevailed, giving the United States gold in that event for the fifth straight Games.

Biles later said she was going through the "twisties," which is what gymnasts call a mental block that causes them to lose track of themselves in the air during flips and twists in their routines.

In an interview with NBC's Mike Tirico (h/t Mike Gavin of NBC 10 Philadelphia) after her Olympics ended, Biles noted that she pulled out of multiple events both for her physical and mental health.

She also described the pressures of being a top female athlete, saying:

"I feel like it's hard, but it's harder being a female athlete because everybody prays for your downfall and wants you to mess up and all of that stuff. I don't think they take into consideration our mental health because what we do isn't easy or else everybody could do it. But also, at the end of the day, we're not just athletes or entertainment, we're human too and we have emotions and feelings and things that we're working through behind the scenes that we don't tell you guys about. And so, I just think it's something that people should be more aware of."

Biles concluded the interview with Tirico by saying: "Put your mental health first. It doesn't matter if you're on the biggest stage. That's more important than any other medal you could win."

Regardless of what happened in Tokyo, Biles is regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time with seven Olympic medals, including four golds, one of which was in the individual all-around. She is also a five-time world champion in the all-around.

Like Biles, Rodgers is at the top of his profession and understands the pressures that come with it.

He is a three-time NFL MVP and one-time Super Bowl champion who is sure to get inducted into the Football Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible.

The 37-year-old veteran offered some words of wisdom regarding mental health, saying:

"Well, we should keep talking about it. Keep talking about ways that we individually deal with stress and deal with anxiety and deal with pressure and deal with depression or loneliness. I think that would really help. Because we, whether we like it or not, have a platform to influence people. And our words are often listened to more than the person who’s not in the public eye as much. So we have an opportunity—not an obligation, an opportunity—to maybe share some of our own ways of dealing with things and break some of the stigma around mental health."

Biles made some significant sacrifices in Tokyo to put her mental health first, including turning down the opportunity to become only the third woman in Olympic history to win the individual all-around gold medal at back-to-back Games.

While the Olympics didn't go as most expected them to for Biles, her decisions opened the door for more serious discussions about mental health, which Rodgers clearly appreciates.