Shortly after U.S. shooter Kim Rhode won a bronze medal for women’s skeet shooting on 12 August 2016 at the 2016 Summer Olympics, her sixth medal in as many Olympiads, a rumor took root holding that the news media had purposefully ignored her accomplishments due to her support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the 2nd amendment:
Rhode has now earned a medal at the last six Summer Olympic Games, a feat no other woman has ever accomplished. While one could argue that her victory deserved more media attention, it’s incorrect to say that the media ignored her victory, and disingenuous to claim that the reason was due to her support for the second amendment and Donald Trump.
Although both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal acknowledged that there is a stigma attached to shooting sports which limits sponsorship opportunities outside the firearms industry, they also noted that shooting isn’t attractive to big-name sponsors simply because it isn’t a widely followed sport in America:
The rise in gun violence and mass shootings in the US have attached a stigma to shooting as a sport, they say. So while companies like Winchester, Beretta and Otis Technology support Rhode, she doesn’t have a single sponsor from outside the firearm industry.
Politics may only tell part of the story. American television audiences don’t tend to watch shooting — or, for that matter, a number of other sports. “The biggest challenge is limited exposure,” said Peter Carlisle, head of the Olympic Sports and Action division at Octagon Worldwide. “If the sport itself doesn’t provide a consistent platform for the athletes to become recognizable and maintain relevance, there’s limited value to a sponsor.”
A survey conducted by Five Thirty Eight found that shooting was ranked as one of the least popular events at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the sport was not listed in an Adweek survey announcing the “11 Olympic Sports That Viewers Are Most Excited About Watching.”
While controversy over gun issues may be a contributing factor to Rhode’s lack of major sponsorship opportunities, it isn’t a new issue or one specific to her particular political stances. Wheaties, the General Mills cereal famous for picturing athletes on their boxes since 1934, has never featured a shooter.
We here at snopes.com are part of “the media,” and rather than ignoring Kim, we offer her our hearty congratulations on achieving a truly impressive Olympic accomplishment and hope to see her extend her medal streak at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.