Gymnastics Ireland issued a statement today, offering an apology to a young gymnast and her family in light of a viral video that sparked a debate about racism in the sport last weekend.
Last weekend, a video from 2022 surfaced online, in which an older woman could be seen distributing medals to gymnasts, inadvertently omitting the only black girl in the group. The video rapidly gained popularity over the weekend.
Social media users criticised sporting officials at a GymSTART competition for overlooking the sole black girl on the podium.
The incident also drew criticism from many, including four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who posted on social media: "(It) broke my heart to see... There is no room for racism in any sport or anywhere."
Today, Gymnastics Ireland extended their apologies to both the family and the contestant for the distress caused by the mistake.
This video is making the rounds. In the Gymnastics Ireland statement released today about this event that occurred 1 yr ago they said “The official also expressed deep regret for what they described as an honest error” What kind of error is that?This was a blatant act of racism. pic.twitter.com/KkU0ueO0Jv
— Bob Roony (@Bob_Roony) September 23, 2023
A statement from Gymnastics Ireland stated: "On behalf of the Board and staff of Gymnastics Ireland, we would like to unreservedly apologise to the gymnast and her family for the distress caused by the incident at the GymStart event in March 2022.
"What transpired on that day should not have occurred, and for that, we are deeply sorry.
"We also regret that subsequent events have caused further distress."
Gymnastics Ireland also admitted the necessity to take more comprehensive measures to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.
"Please be assured that we have been acting in good faith and with the best of intentions in addressing this very challenging and sensitive matter. We offered an in-person apology following the incident as we believed it to be the most appropriate approach. Subsequently, we felt mediation was the best way forward," they added.
"We now recognize the need for more extensive action. We are committed to ensuring that such an incident never happens again. Earlier this year, we appointed an independent expert to review our policies and procedures, resulting in a series of recommendations that we are fully committed to implementing to prevent any such incident from recurring."
The organisation has also offered support to the gymnast's family and is willing to listen to any suggestions on how they can improve their approach to racial issues. They expressed their commitment to eradicating racial abuse of any kind in the future.
"We would also like to engage with the gymnast's family and Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) to hear any suggestions they may have regarding the enhancement of our procedures in this regard.
"We are pleased to see that the gymnast continues to participate in Gymnastics Ireland events, and we eagerly anticipate her return to our future events as well.
"Finally, we wish to unequivocally state that Gymnastics Ireland condemns any form of racism."
According to a report from The Irish Independent, the family members of a young black gymnast rejected an "apology" from the Irish sports body.
The child's mother spoke to the Irish Independent and stated that the brief written apology from the organisation, addressed "to whom it concerns," was not a genuine apology. She has since taken the matter to the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation in Switzerland.
Since the video went viral on Friday, the mother has also contacted the gardaí (Irish police) to express concerns that the family may be subjected to racist abuse. She is requesting Gymnastics Ireland's assistance in persuading social media companies to remove the video.
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