After winning the hearts of Americans on the ice (and on Twitter), Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon was approached this weekend about joining NBC as a correspondent in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the remainder of the 2018 Winter Games.
It was an offer his team initially accepted, according to one report, only to turn it down soon after when Rippon, who said he first learned about all of this via social media, realized he would have to leave Team USA — something he felt he could not do out of respect for his teammates.
“I am so flattered that NBC wanted me to work as a correspondent. But if I took this opportunity, I would have to leave the Olympic team and I’d have to leave the [Olympic] Village,” he told host Liam McHugh on NBC’s sports network on Monday (Sunday night stateside). “And it’s so important to me that — I worked so hard to be on this Olympic team, and my teammates and my friends were there for me during my events and that meant so much to me, that I really feel like I need to be there for them during their events as well.”
NBC spokesman Greg Hughes told USA Today on Sunday that the 28-year-old Rippon, who helped the U.S. bring home a bronze medal in the figure skating team competition, would work on a variety of NBC platforms, including TV, digital and social media.
And soon enough, the NBC Olympics Twitter account was publicizing that Rippon would be fielding questions from users online using an NBC Olympics hashtag. About 14 hours after its initial story, however, USA Today published a new report citing “a person close to the situation” who said Rippon had ultimately decided not to take NBC’s offer.
Rippon addressed the reports on Twitter later Monday, writing in one tweet: “I love being on Team USA and representing our country. My teammates were there for me during my events, and now I NEED to be there for them. I look forward to being with them, and I’m very excited for the rest of the competition. Go Team USA!!!”
He added, “I actually found everything out about the offer via twitter HAHA 😂😂 2018 is wild girl.”
He echoed the statements to Hoda Kotb and Savanna Guthrie during a Monday appearance on the TODAY show, gushing about the support of his teammates.
“My friends and my teammates they were there for me through all of my events and I owe it to them to stand by their side and be there for them during their events,” he said. “That’s so important because I’m ‘America’s sweetheart’ now, but I came here an athlete. And I am representing my country and to do that to the best of my ability I have to be there for my teammates.”
He adds: “Just wait five days!”
Already a history-maker for being the first openly gay man to compete for America in the Winter Olympics (followed soon after by freeskier Gus Kenworthy), Rippon has not shied away from the role fame gives him as an advocate for the broader LGBTQ community.
Rippon has been in the headlines ever since speaking out in a January interview with USA Today about President Donald Trump administration’s policies toward the LGBTQ community, calling out Vice President Mike Pence.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”
The outspoken athlete added that “there might be a possibility to have an open conversation” with Pence after he was finished competing.
Rippon also had a message to any detractors.
“To all those who tweet at me saying that they ‘hope I fail’, I have failed many times many times in my life,” he wrote on Twitter last week. “But more importantly, I’ve learned from every setback, proudly own up to my mistakes, grown from disappointments, and now I’m a glamazon bitch ready for the runway.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.