US mum hits back at critics after video showing 'affectionate' hug with her 16yo son goes viral

Screenshots of Amber Wright and her son from her Instagram post-football
Photo credit: @ambslund / Instagram

An affectionate hug between a mother and son as they celebrated his football team's victory has come under intense scrutiny on social media, with several critics questioning whether the embrace was "appropriate".  

Amber Wright, a 38-year-old mum from the US state of Utah, shared the now-viral footage to her Instagram back in August to document her son Brixton's victory in a high school game of American football.  

In the video, which was recorded by her best friend Gina, Wright can be seen leaping into the arms of her 16-year-old son and wrapping her legs around his waist as he holds her aloft, before placing her back down. Captioning the clip, she wrote: "This boy will forever and always have my entire heart. Gina captured the end of this moment, and I'm SO grateful.  

"When I walked up to hug my baby boy after his game, he immediately picked me up and just held me. It may have been 20 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute, I have no idea. But in this moment, time stood completely still," she gushed.  

However, the sweet moment was not universally well-received, with a number of viewers questioning the manner in which she embraced her son - sparking a fierce debate online.   

Despite Wright's innocent intentions, many accused her of acting "inappropriately" with the teenager, while others pointed out that they assumed she was his girlfriend based on the footage, leading to widespread ridicule and hateful comments.   

"Literally thought this was his girlfriend," one commented, while another said: "That guy's future wife doesn't stand a chance."  

"I'm a single mom and very close to my sons. I hug them in public without hesitation - but straddling them in high heels would cross a line neither of us would be comfortable with," another critic wrote, with a fourth adding: "It would've been cute if it was his girlfriend, but not a mother."  

"A bit much there, Mom… keep your feet on the ground things will be fine," another hit out.  

The video itself has since been liked by more than 184,000 people, with Wright's following going up from a reported 1,900 at the time of the post to over 42,600 at the time of writing.

The footage went so viral, Wright even publicly responded to the backlash via local media. In an interview with Today, the mum reiterated that the loving interaction between her and Brixton was nothing more than "a proud mom hugging her kid".  

"One of my best friends recorded the moment where Brix picked me up and I thought it was so cute," she told the outlet, before admitting that she never expected the reaction to the video would be so vitriolic.  

"I never expected it to turn into something where people are like: 'You're sexually abusing him! You're grooming him! I'm calling child protective services'," she continued.  

"I come from a very affectionate family. I hug my dad every time I see him. What you saw on the football field is just how we are. Brix will pick me up and squeeze me and then put me back down."  

She added that despite the backlash, a number of people have messaged her privately to offer their support, as well as other mothers who have stood up for her in the comments.   

To add further context to the story, Wright also shared a series of screenshots to her Instagram earlier this month that showed her son defending her in a passionate message. In the text, Brixton described her as his "hero" and said she had attended every one of his football games.  

"I was just giving her a hug after the game and I did pick her up, she did not jump on me. My mom's been the only person there for me my whole life," he wrote in the text.  

"I grew up with a alcoholic dad who would just come and go when he wanted, he was great when he was sober, but [when] he wasn't he was just so dark and different. He never [really] showed up to any of my games or anything like that, my mom's been to every single [one] since I've played."  

He added that his dad had died by suicide last year, leading him to change his jersey number to 44 to commemorate his date of death: April 4.   

"It was her first time seeing me wear it in person so obviously she was very emotional and so was I. All it was, was a big hug from me to her," he added.   

The 16-year-old has also hit back at critics with multiple comments defending his mother in recent weeks, prior to Wright verbally addressing the incident.  

Speaking to Today, Wright reiterated that there was intense emotion behind the embrace due to his father's passing, adding that it was the first time he had donned his jersey following the death.   

"He was feeling emotional, and I think as his mom, I'm his safe space," she said.   

Wright has also since responded to the backlash online in a strongly worded post to her Instagram, calling those who called the nature of their relationship into question "clearly disturbed".  

"Allow me to offer some clarification," she wrote. "1. My son PICKED ME UP and this video was captured toward the end; I did not jump on him. 2. He and I do have a close and HEALTHY relationship. If you were lose your father to suicide due to alcoholism at the young age of 15, I would hope you would have a mother to be close with.  

"My son is a 4.0 student, an athlete, doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs and has never been in trouble. Just try to get on my level as a completely single mother, I dare you," she went one. "4. If you see something wrong with a boy wanting to pick up and hold his mom after a rather intense football game, maybe ask yourself what in the hell is wrong with you that your mind goes there."