Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine said his social media post knocking the composition of Trinidad and Tobago's Olympic team was really a criticism of local sports administration.
Last Saturday, sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye questioned on Twitter why TT-born rapper Nicki Minaj had only complimented the Jamaican women's performance in the 100-metre sprint.
Ahye tweeted: “Guess I needed to win a medal for @nickiminaj to recognize her own country flag,”
In response, Augustine posted on Facebook: “I don’t understand how people who are failing, expecting recognition. What Nicki tweeting her to say? We carried the worse (sic) Olympic team in years and expect adoration?”
The post was shared several times before Augustine deleted it.
But Augustine said his post was being misconstrued.
“I never blamed the athletes for their performance. I blamed policy-makers like (Secretary for Sport and Youth Affairs) Mrs (Tracy) Davidson-Celestine. She is part of the reason why our athletes have not performed better at the Olympics."
Augustine said sport in TT, and particularly Tobago, is not being managed properly.
“We live on an island where (the) Tobago Football Association has had to cancel matches because playing fields are not cut and maintained in a timely manner.”
He also accused the PNM of being hypocritical, pointing to a Facebook post last month from San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello's account which questioned whether it made sense sending so many athletes to Tokyo.
“Why isn’t she condemning PNM mayor’s office for asserting that it was a waste of money to carry the athletes to the Olympics? I never said it was a waste of money to carry them to the Olympics. I don’t believe that at all, but isn’t it the truth that we are failing at sport because we are failing our athletes?”
Regrello later apologised for the post, saying it was sent by one of his recently-hired social media managers.
Davidson-Celestine, in a WhatsApp message to Newsday, condemned Augustine for his comments.
She said, “It’s not an easy feat to qualify for the Olympics. So Assemblyman Farley Augustine was completely out of timing.
"Six Tobago athletes made the team, although the athletes have not yet won any medals for our island and our country, to produce athletes who qualify for the Olympics is a great accomplishment. Very few of us will ever know what that feels like and means to any sportsman or woman.”
Medals or not, she said, "we must stand behind them and be proud of the efforts and that we are represented. We will not always win, but as leaders we ought to encourage our teams through thick and thin. Now is not the time to attack these athletes as they are in the most fragile and vulnerable state of their lives, compounded by the covid19 pandemic.”
The PNM’s Tobago West Youth League (TWYL) in a media release also condemned Augustine’s post, saying, “Farley Augustine’s disgust for national athlete Michelle-Lee Ahye for not medalling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is tasteless and crass with no regard for our athletes who qualified for the international games. The members of the Youth League believe that the assemblyman’s derogatory comments seek to diminish our athletes.”
The Youth League said it supports TT Olympians who are making the country proud.