A 12-year-old Black swimmer was almost disqualified from competing at a meet in Superior, Wisconsin– all because she wore a swimsuit that bore a powerful message.
Leidy, who has a passion for social justice, wanted to show solidarity following the death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old who was gunned down by police in Minneapolis on Feb. 2. The youth swimmer proudly arrived to her swim meet at Superior High School on Feb. 6, wearing a swimsuit displaying the words, “Black Lives Matter,” but Leidy’s powerful message didn’t resonate with one of the competition’s officials.
In a statement to CNN, the Duluth Area Family YMCA reported that the “independent volunteer official inappropriately barred” the young athlete from participating in the meet because of her Black Lives Matter swimsuit. The organization, which also sponsored Sunday’s meet, said that the individual in question believed the suit “went against USA Swimming’s policy of no political language.”
Leidy’s mom, Sarah Lyons, quickly stepped in to support her daughter when she refused to take the swimsuit off.
“She said, ‘mom, I’m not taking the suit off, and I said ‘you go girl’ and ‘okay,’” Lyons explained. When asked why she remained steadfast in her decision, young Leidy told local news station Fox 21:
“I was like, why do I have to take my suit off if like my life matters, other black people’s lives matter too?”
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When the strict official wouldn’t budge on their decision, Lyons said she called on the help of Duluth’s NAACP chapter to rectify the issue. A few minutes later, members of the Duluth YMCA were on-site to review the matter. Thankfully, Leidy’s disqualification was quickly overturned and the young swimmer was able to compete. The organization also banned the volunteer race official from participating in future Duluth YMCA meets.
Classie Dudley, President of the NAACP Duluth Branch told KBJR that the move was not political.
“This is a humanitarian issue,” she said, citing how Sunday’s incident shed light on an even bigger problem of ongoing discrimination in the athletic world.
“It’s important that when you see something, you have to say something,” Dudley continued. “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.”
The Duluth Area Family YMCA issued a statement following the incident emphasizing their pledge to prioritize diversity and inclusion moving forward.
“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 organization wrote.
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