When Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won his third consecutive gold medal for the 100-meter dash Sunday night, he probably wasn’t expecting to become a meme. But Getty photographer Cameron Spencer happened to capture the runner just as he turned his head and smiled as though to say, “Yeah, I’m gonna beat these guys.”
Just like that, Smiling Usain Bolt was born.
Always a fan of a rising meme, the Ellen Show‘s Twitter account tried to get in on the action late Monday by tweeting out a digitally altered image of the host with Smiling Bolt. There’s one problem, though: She’s riding him.
While fans on Twitter were all about the original Smiling Bolt, Ellen‘s contribution was widely received as racially insensitive:
so the first thing that pops in your head when looking at this pic is "oh let me jump onto his back like he's a common mule"?— Horatio (@Jhoratio) August 15, 2016
This is so gross. Fire whoever did this.— dai is double vaxxed & masked 😷 (@daibyday) August 15, 2016
As of Tuesday afternoon, the tweet is still up and Ellen has not provided comment. The show did follow up with a second Bolt tweet, however, highlighting a previous appearance the Olympian made on the program.
Update 3:05pm CT, Aug. 16: DeGeneres herself responded to the controversy via Twitter:
I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am.— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 16, 2016