Ellen DeGeneres defends herself after netizens slam her Usain Bolt meme as racist

 Ellen DeGeneres at the premiere of Finding Dory at El Capitan theatre in Hollywood, California, on June 8, 2016
Ellen DeGeneres at the premiere of Finding Dory at El Capitan theatre in Hollywood, California, on June 8, 2016PHOTO: REUTERS

Comedienne and American TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres caused a stir when she posted a meme of herself riding on the back of Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

A photo of the Jamaican sprinter looking back and grinning at his opponents during the 100m semi-final race on Sunday (Aug 14) went viral, and has become one of the memorable moments of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

She posted a photoshopped version of the picture on Twitter, with her on his back, with the caption: "This is how I'm running errands from now on."

But not everyone appreciated the humour intended in the edited image.

Many called the picture insensitive and racist for showing a white woman riding on the back of a black man.

One Twitter user posted: "So riding on his back like a mule, a horse as some form of property is fun to you... OK."

Others came to her defence, with one user saying: "I am absolutely baffled by the people currently calling Ellen DeGeneres racist because she, more or less, called an Olympic sprinter fast."

In response to the criticisms, DeGeneres tweeted: "I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am."

Bolt, who went on to win the 100m finals later on Sunday, retweeted the image himself, and has previously appeared on her talk show.