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Story highlights

Gabby Douglas' mom Natalie Hawkins: "You go from people's adoration to being the brunt of criticism and hatred"

Some have slammed Douglas online for not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem

(CNN) —  

Imagine being the darling of the 2012 London Olympics, only to be criticized for your every move four years later in Rio.

That’s what’s happening to US gymnast Gabby Douglas, who not only didn’t make it to the event she won gold for in London, but who has been given the nickname “Crabby Gabby” in an onslaught of social media criticism.

“You go from people’s adoration to being the brunt of criticism and hatred,” Douglas’ mom, Natalie Hawkins said. “It is hard, because her nature is so giving and so kind.”

Speaking to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day,” Hawkins said that her daughter has been devastated by online snark about her demeanor in Rio and whether she has been supportive enough of her teammates. Hawkins in particular called out critics chastising Douglas for not putting her hand over her heart on the medal stand during the national anthem.

“It was harsh to boil down your patriotism to one act,” Hawkins said. “That doesn’t determine how honorable you are, or how happy you are to compete for your country.”

Team USA gold medalists Lauren Hernandez, Gabrielle Douglas and Simone Biles, from left,  during the medal ceremony in Rio.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images South America/Getty Images
Team USA gold medalists Lauren Hernandez, Gabrielle Douglas and Simone Biles, from left, during the medal ceremony in Rio.

Hawkins added that her mom is a Navy veteran and her dad is a Vietnam War veteran, and they always stand at attention or salute.

Speaking to CNN on Facebook Live, Hawkins explained that her daughter’s sensitive nature has made her especially susceptible to the vitriol.

“She’s like a sponge. Everything that you say to her, she just absorbs it.”

That cannot be easy for someone on an international stage. Hawkins said Gabby has even burst into tears when she’s yelled at her for not cleaning her bedroom.

Douglas won a gold medal in Rio in a team event but finished seventh Sunday in the uneven bars.

The gymnast does have a lot of support, though, from her friends and family. Hawkins said she received a text from Douglas’ teammate, Aly Raisman, “offering some beautiful words of encouragement.”

And there seems to be a movement to reverse the online criticism. Thanks to Douglas’ supporters, #LOVE4GABBYUSA has been trending.