Photo via Martin Pettitt/Flickr

‘Ellen Show’ sparks outrage for picture of DeGeneres riding Usain Bolt

Another day, another meme gone awry.


Christine Friar


Published Aug 16, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 6:15 am CDT


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:

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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: 

H/T Mic

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*First Published: Aug 16, 2016, 1:53 pm CDT