Leidy Gallona, a 12-year-old swimmer, was disqualified from a Wisconsin meeting for wearing a Black Lives Matter swimsuit; However, the decision was reversed when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stepped in to reinstate Leidy in the race. The young athlete wore the swimsuit to honor the death of 22-year-old Amir Locke, who was recently shot dead by a Minneapolis Police Department SWAT officer.
Sarah Lyons, Leidy’s mother, described the importance of wearing this swimsuit to her daughter. She said it was a tribute to Amir Locke, who was shot dead by police on February 2 because the Black Lives Matter movement is very important to her as a woman of color. “She is very committed to social justice. She went through a lot at a young age. It’s a big part of her, which I think is wild at 12,” Lyons said.
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For the Duluth Area Family YMCA, which sponsored the Sunday, Feb. 6 Wisconsin Meet at Superior High School, the swimsuit was a violation of USA Swimming’s swim policy, which specifically prohibits any kind of political language. According to them, Leidy should have changed into a different suit, but an “independent volunteer official improperly banned a student athlete from attending the meeting because of his Black Lives Matter swimsuit and explained the policy that went against US swimming policy without a political one.” Language,” the local YMCA said. The officer later changed his reason for firing to logo size rather than political speech.
Duluth’s YMCA leaders later reversed the disqualification after Lyons implicated the NAACP in the matter. The nonprofit even went so far as to suspend the volunteer race director, who took the liberty of disqualifying the young athlete. The Duluth YMCA later issued a statement on the incident, stating that it would “hold officers accountable for continued training to address systemic racism.”
“The Duluth YMCA is saddened that the student, his family and teammates had to endure this unacceptable behavior. The Duluth YMCA will continue its ongoing commitment to educate all staff and volunteers in diversity, equity and inclusion,” the statement said. “The Duluth Area Family YMCA is committed to being an anti-racist organization and stands with BIPOC communities throughout Northland and across our country. We know Black Lives Matter and we will continue to work to educate ourselves, stand up against inequality and strive to be active allies in the ongoing fight for diversity, justice and inclusion.”
A picture of Leidy in her statement swimsuit has since gone viral, and celebrities including LeBron James have endorsed the young swimmer by posting her picture to his Instagram Stories in support.
When the volunteer race director told Leidy to change her clothes or she would be disqualified, Leidy said, “Mom, I’m not taking the suit off.” Her mother replied, “Go, girl.” Classie Dudley, president of the Duluth branch of the NAACP said, “This is a humanitarian issue. It’s not political. It’s human.
“It’s important that when you see something you have to say something,” Dudley added.
The Duluth NAACP also took notes on who and how people championed the determined athlete. “There were 500 people in that room and nobody realized what was going on,” Leidy’s mother said.