Gymnastics Ireland (GI) is facing global outrage after a viral video showed a black gymnast being excluded during a medal ceremony. The video, recorded at the event that was held in March 2022, shows young gymnasts waiting for their awards, with the black girl being the only one not receiving any. This incident occurred in front of a sizeable audience. Gymnastics Ireland officials initially termed the incident as a personal dispute between the family of the girl and an individual woman, according to a report in The Guardian. They did not publicly commit to probe the incident, implementing anti-racism policies, or enhancing protection for athletes of colour. But 18 months later, the gymnastics body has now apologised to the family.
Welcome to Ireland where people get away with racism! This little black girl broke my heart. Don’t skip this post without leaving a million heart 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 treat a little girl this way.” She argued that this incident reflects a systemic issue and sends the message that Gymnastics Ireland tolerates such behaviour by not speaking out.
The official involved denied any racist behaviour and wanted to apologise to the family for the oversight. The girl eventually received her medal.
Simone Biles, the renowned American gymnast, reached out to the family shortly after the incident, extending her support through a private video message. The video went viral again on social media this month, prompting Ms Biles to publicly condemn the behaviour and stress that there is no place for racism in sports or anywhere else.
“When this video was circulating, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see, so I sent her a little video. There is no room for racism in any sport or at all,” she said on X, formerly Twitter.
when this video was circulating, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see, so I sent her a little video
there is no room for racism in any sport or at all !!!!
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) September 23, 2023
Her teammate Jordan Chiles, an Olympic silver medalist, condemned the video and said, “Gymternet pls help me find this little girl… This is beyond hurtful on so many levels, I need you guys to find her pls… asap.”
As international outrage grew, GI released a statement expressing concern and providing a written apology from the judge, but stopped short from issuing one officially.
GI clarified that it initially treated the incident as a member-to-member complaint and only recently learned that the family sought a public apology.
The formal apology
As the outrage over the video grew, Gymnastics Ireland finally apologised to the gymnast and her family. “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,” the sporting body further 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, it said.
It said that the sporting body was happy to see that the gymnast continued to participate in gymnastics Ireland events and it looked forward to welcoming her back to its future events also.