Gymnastics Ireland found itself in the midst of a racism controversy after a viral video showed a young black girl, who was competing, being skipped over during a medal ceremony. The other white children were all given an award.
The video was originally shot in March last year. It shows a lineup of young gymnasts waiting for their awards. While all of them received theirs, the black girl was visibly overlooked.
Although the sporting body claimed they settled the issue last year itself, the girl’s mother said that was not true, and that the family had not received a genuine apology, according to the Daily Mail. The mother said the family was “very upset” about the incident. According to the Irish Independent, the family believes that their daughter was ignored because she was black.
Many pointed out that the person giving away the awards walked away with the remaining medal. The woman chose not to renew her membership, and is not a member of the sporting body anymore.
Simone Biles reacts
After the video surfaced, Simone Biles said the incident broke her heart. “when this video was circulating, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see, so I sent her a little video,” Simone wrote on X. “there is no room for racism in any sport or at all !!!!”
The Irish Independent, who spoke to the girl’s mother, said that Simone said in the video she sent the girl, “I wanted to let you know that I saw how you were treated at your GymStart event recently. I was completely shocked and wanted to let you know that you deserve a medal just like all of the other girls.”
“I know you’ve worked incredibly hard at the sport and I wanted to say I am rooting for you from here,” tour-time Olympic gold medalist added. “Sending you my very best and know that there are so many of us here to support you.”
Gymnastics Ireland issues an apology
Gymnastics Ireland apologised for the incident after the video resurfaced, only after a massive outcry. “On behalf of the Board and staff of Gymnastics Ireland we would like to unreservedly apologise to the gymnast and her family for the upset that has been caused by the incident at the GymStart event in March 2022,” it said in a statement. “What happened on the day should not have happened and for that we are deeply sorry.”
“Please know that at all times we have been acting in good faith and with the best of intentions in trying to resolve this very difficult and sensitive matter. We offered an in-person apology after the incident as we believed this was the best approach. Subsequently we felt mediation was the best way forward,” it continued.
The sporting body added, “We know now we need to do more. We are committed to ensuring nothing like this will happen again. We appointed an independent expert to review our policies and procedures earlier this year and a series of recommendations have resulted which we are fully committed to implementing so that this does not ever happen again. We would also like to engage with the gymnast’s family and Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) to listen to any suggestions they have as to how our procedures can be improved in this regard.”
They said they are pleased to see that the gymnast is still participating in the events. “Finally, we would like to make it absolutely clear that Gymnastics Ireland condemns any form of racism whatsoever,” it concluded.
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