In an interview on the "Today" show Monday morning, NBC sportscaster and prime-time Olympic Games host Bob Costas made a comment about the new Olympic sport of slopestyle that has ski and snowboard athletes up in arms.
While footage from the halfpipe flashed on the screen behind Costas, host Matt Lauer asked the NBC Sports vet about slopestyle, a sport in which skiers and snowboarders are judged on tricks and overall performance on rails and jumps. The event, which has been contested in the X Games since 1997 (ski slopestyle was added to the program in 2002), has been won by snowboarders Shaun White and Travis Rice and skier Tanner Hall. It was added to the Olympic program in July 2011.
"I think the president of the IOC should be Johnny Knoxville," Costas answered in a joking tone. "Because basically this stuff is just 'Jackass' stuff they invented and called an Olympic sport."
Costas added that he meant the remark in "the kindest possible way."
Costas' comment has caused a flurry of reactions from slopestyle athletes looking forward to the sport's Olympic debut on Feb. 8. Many athletes took to social media to sound off.
"Let me get this straight: All the sacrifices of body and mind I and countless others have made to progress the discipline of slopestyle have now been reduced to the byproduct of an MTV show ... by someone that is 'hosting' the Olympics?" wrote NBC Olympic Snowboarding commentator Todd Richards on Facebook. "On behalf of NBC's snowboarding coverage team I apologize to everyone in the sport. This does not represent the feelings of the people that work hard to bring you the snowboarding broadcasts."
In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, Richards elaborated, saying, "Snowboarding is just another activity on the slopes now. Freeskiers and snowboarders are on the same wavelength. The days of it being some weird activity done by hoodlums are over. There are pockets of people that still feel that way, but they just seem old and out of touch with the world when they express their opinions."
Sage Kotsenburg, a favorite for the U.S. Olympic snowboard slopestyle team, which will be announced Jan. 19, added, "We just got in the Olympics, and already we have guys who know nothing about the history of our sport telling us we're just a bunch of jackasses? That's pretty demeaning. That wasn't even slopestyle they showed during that interview, it was Shaun [White] riding halfpipe."
On the ski side, the reaction was much the same.
"Comments like that show his underlying feelings toward the event, and it just puts out a bad message," American slopestyle skier and Olympic favorite Tom Wallisch told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "If people like Costas continue to talk about the sport like that, it's going to make slopestyle look like a junk show, which it isn't. It's a sport that has more followers and fans than a lot of other Olympic sports. And this is our time to show that to the world."
Fellow American Olympic hopeful Nick Goepper found a silver lining in the comments.
"I'm glad Bob Costas said that," Goepper told ESPN.com. "Now it should draw interest and make slopestyle one of the most entertaining sports in the Olympics."