UPDATE: Mother, Duluth NAACP hope for community change following swimmer disqualification
UPDATE 2/7 -- During a Sunday swim meet in Superior, Wisconsin, controversy arose after one athlete wanted to send a message of solidarity.
In light of Amir Locke’s death in Minneapolis, Leidy, who is 12-years-old, wore a swimsuit displaying the words “Black Lives Matter”.
“She is very passionate about social justice. She has been through a lot already at a young age. It’s a big part of her which I think is wild at 12,” said Sarah Lyons, Leidy’s mother.
According to Lyons, a race official at the swim meet claimed it violated USA Swimming’s policy against political language.
The official said if Leidy did not change, she would be disqualified.
“She said, ‘mom, I’m not taking the suit off, and I said ‘you go girl’ and ‘okay,’” said Lyons.
She then called in extra help from the Duluth NAACP.
“This is a humanitarian issue. It’s not political. It’s human. It’s humanizing something,” said Classie Dudley, President of the Duluth Branch NAACP.
Leidy’s disqualification was then overturned by Duluth YMCA leaders, who were sponsoring the race.
They also banned the volunteer race official from any future Duluth YMCA meet.
In the end, Leidy was able to compete in her Black Lives Matter suit, but those who were there to support her said this incident shed light on an ongoing problem in the community.
“It’s important that when you see something, you have to say something,” said Dudley. “That same energy that the NAACP brought when we showed up to support Leidy is the same energy that the community should have had in that moment.”
“There were 500 people in that room, and nobody noticed what was going on,” said Lyons. “It is a really good example of what is actual allyship and what is performative allyship in those moments when people need you to stand up even if it’s not in your best interest.”
Dudley said the Twin Ports still has a long way to go towards acceptance but hopes stories like Leidy’s spark conversations of change.
“The more we have those conversations, the more we can come together and unite and understand how to be a community,” said Dudley.
In a statement issued Sunday, the Duluth YMCA said they are committed to being an anti-racist organization, saying they stand with BIPOC communities.
They said they will continue to educate themselves and strive to be active allies in the ongoing fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Since the news of what happened at the swim meet broke, it has garnered national attention with thousands of shares and comments on social media, including a phone call to Lyons from big names like NBA basketball player Lebron James.
SUPERIOR, WI. (KBJR) - The Duluth YMCA has banned a race official from future swim meets after they told a student she could not compete Sunday because she was wearing a swimsuit displaying the words “Black Lives Matter.”
The meet was held at the Superior High School and sponsored by the Duluth YMCA.
According to the Duluth YMCA, an independent volunteer official temporarily barred the student-athlete from taking part in the meet, stating the words on her swimsuit “went against USA Swimming’s policy of no political language.”
According to Classie Dudley, President of the Duluth Branch NAACP, the volunteer official gave the option for the swimmer to change into a different swimsuit, but she did not.
Dudley was called to the meet by the swimmer’s parents to help rectify the situation.
The Duluth YMCA said they disputed the claim and quickly overruled the decision, allowing the student to compete again.
The Duluth YMCA said they are working alongside the swimmer’s family and will work to hold independent officials accountable for further education to address systemic racism.
“The Duluth Area Family YMCA is committed to being an anti-racist organization and stands with BIPOC communities throughout the Northland and throughout our country. We know that Black Lives Matter and we will continue to work to educate ourselves, to stand against inequality, and to strive to be active allies in the ongoing fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said The Duluth YMCA in a statement.
The volunteer race official was removed from the meet and will be banned from any further Duluth YMCA-hosted swim meets.
Editor’s note: The volunteer timer previously depicted in a photo beside the young swimmer is not the race official in question.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Copyright 2022 KBJR. All rights reserved.