Former U.S. skier and now NBC Sports analyst Bode Miller has once again found himself on a slippery slope, after blaming a female athlete’s drop in performance at the Winter Olympics on her marriage.
Austrian skier Anna Veith has battled with a knee injury since she won two medals—gold and silver—at the 2014 Games in Sochi—but Miller announced on air on NBC Wednesday night that the real blame for her dip in form should be placed on her tying the knot.
“The knee is certainly an issue,” opined Miller, a five-time Olympic medalist once known for his hard-partying “bad boy” ways off the slopes, during his commentary on the Women’s Giant Slalom event. “I want to point out she also got married and it’s historically very challenging to race on World Cup with a family or after being married. Not to blame the spouses, but I just want to toss that out there, that it could be her husband’s fault.”
Miller quickly backtracked and apologized for his comments. Speaking shortly after the gaffe, he said: “That was an ill-advised attempt at a joke. I was an athlete that competed after marriage and I know how beneficial it is. I know the support team you need. I relied on my friends and family.”
He went on: “If you have the luxury of relying on a spouse, I know they are inevitably your biggest supporter. And on Valentine’s Day, I didn’t mean to throw spouses under the bus. Certainly, I’m going to be hearing it from my wife, I know.”
Miller also backtracked on Twitter, saying that for both men and women marriage is “historically hard,” thanked his wife for her support, and wished his followers a happy Valentine’s Day.
Ahh, lovely stuff.
However, it’s not the first time Miller’s behavior toward women has drawn criticism.
Before the Sochi Games, the skier was heavily criticized for how he handled his ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy in 2013 and 2014, claiming full custody of a child he’d previously shown little interest in and changing the child’s name without asking the boy’s mother.
Miller took action against his ex, Sara McKenna, two weeks after their son was born, accusing the former Marine of irresponsible conduct for moving from California to New York while she was pregnant to attend Columbia University on the G.I. Bill.
A judge said McKenna’s “appropriation of the child in-utero was irresponsible, reprehensible,” outraging women’s rights groups who said the ruling was tantamount to accusing McKenna of running off with a fetus.
A California judge ruled that Miller and his new wife should have custody of the child and, writing for Cosmopolitan in 2014, McKenna recalled the day Miller turned up at her house to take away the baby.
“I remember seeing the car pull up—and Bode getting out,” wrote McKenna. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to say, ‘Please don’t take him! Let’s try to figure something out!’ But I knew no matter what I said, Bode was going to take Sam. My heart felt like it was being ripped out as I watched Sam being taken away.”
McKenna also said that Miller would only send her a photo or two a week of her infant son, and only discovered from Instagram and Twitter posts that Miller had changed her son’s name from Sam to Nathaniel.
“That was really heartbreaking,” she wrote. “Our son’s name is Samuel Bode Miller-McKenna. Calling him anything else is just confusing. There were also tons of photos of Bode’s wife holding Sam like he was her baby.”
The pair came to a custody agreement in 2014 that remains confidential. “Neither of us got exactly what we wanted, but Sam got what he needed and that’s what’s most important to me,” McKenna told Page Six at the time. She and Miller are said to continue to refer to the child by different names.
Miller had previously earned public attention for breaking down in an interview—some say too harshly—about his recently deceased brother by NBC Sports reporter (and Olympic silver medalist) Christin Cooper immediately after he won bronze in the Super-G event at Sochi. He was hired by NBC in 2015; Cooper left NBC at around the same time.
Miller’s apology is the third to come from an NBC analyst during the Pyeongchang Games.
The Olympic broadcaster ditched analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo from its coverage after he praised Japan for being a “cultural, technological, and economic example” to Korea, overlooking the resentment still felt over Japan’s colonization of Korea in the early 20th century.
Katie Couric also apologized to people in the Netherlands after she was roundly mocked for saying they travel by skiing along their famous canals, claiming: "For as long as those canals have existed, the Dutch have skated on them to get from place to place, to race each other and to have fun."