Gymnastics Ireland (GI) is facing global outrage after a viral video showed a black gymnast being excluded from a medal ceremony. The video, shot during the event held in March 2022, shows young gymnasts waiting for their prize, with the black girl being the only one not to receive a prize. This incident took place in front of a large audience. Gymnastics Ireland officials initially called the incident a personal dispute between the girl’s family and an individual woman, according to a report in The Guardian. They have not publicly committed to investigating the incident, implementing anti-racism policies or improving protections for athletes of color. But 18 months later, the gymnastics organization has now apologized to the family.
Welcome to Ireland, where people can get away with racism! This little black girl broke my heart. Don’t skip this post without leaving a million hearts for her. Make her famous… pic.twitter.com/YYMIP1IALZ
— Mohamad Safa (@mhdksafa) September 22, 2023
The girl’s mother said, “It’s unbelievable that you would treat a little girl like that.” She argued that this incident reflects a systemic problem and sends the message that Gymnastics Ireland tolerates such behavior by not speaking out.
The official involved denied any racist behavior and wanted to apologize to the family for the inattention. The girl eventually received her medal.
Simone Biles, the famous American gymnast, contacted the family shortly after the incident and expressed her support via a private video message. The video went viral again on social media this month, prompting Ms Biles to publicly condemn the behavior and insist there is no place for racism in sport or anywhere else.
“When this video circulated, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see it, so I sent her a video. There is no room for racism in any sport,” she said on X, formerly Twitter.
When this video circulated, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see it, so I sent her a video
there is no room for racism in any sport!!!!
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) September 23, 2023
Her teammate Jordan Chiles, an Olympic silver medalist, condemned the video, saying: “Gymternet, please help me find this little girl… This is beyond hurtful on so many levels, I need you guys to please find her… so fast as possible. “
As international outrage grew, GI released a statement expressing its concerns and offering a written apology from the judge, but stopped short of officially releasing a statement.
GI clarified that it initially treated the incident as a member-to-member complaint and only recently learned that the family was requesting a public apology.
The formal apology
As outrage over the video grew, Gymnastics Ireland eventually apologized to the gymnast and her family. “On behalf of the board and staff of Gymnastics Ireland, we would like to apologize unreservedly to the gymnast and her family for the upset caused by the incident at the GymStart event in March 2022,” a statement said. “What happened that day should not have happened and we are deeply sorry.”
“Please know that we acted in good faith and with the best intentions in resolving this very difficult and sensitive matter. We personally apologized after the incident as we believed this was the best course of action. We subsequently felt that mediation was the best way forward,” the sports organization further added.
“We now know we need to do more. We are determined to ensure something like this does not happen again. We appointed an independent expert earlier this year to review our policies and procedures, which has resulted in a series of recommendations that we fully implement so that this never happens 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 on how our procedures can be improved in this regard, the report said.
It was said that the sporting body was pleased to see the gymnast continuing to compete in gymnastics events in Ireland and looked forward to welcoming her back to future events.