The Duluth YMCA has banned a race official from future swim meets after she told a Black student she could not compete in a race on 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. Leidy Lyons, 12, wore the swimsuit after hearing about the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke â a Black man who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers while executing a no-knock search warrant.
Official Initially Claimed the Swimsuit Violated the 'No Political Language' Policy
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 said she was called by Leidy's mother after the official barred Leidy from participating further in the meet. Dudley then went to Superior High School to show her support.
"The official originally stated that it was politically motivated and that it goes against their policy of no political speech," Dudley told the Duluth News Tribune. "Leidy is 12 and she's trying to share the fact that she matters. There's nothing political about that."
The official then changed her reason for dismissal to the size of the logo, instead of political speech. "I didn't want to entertain that because it was obviously untrue," Dudley said. "Even if it was too big, Black Lives Matter isn't a logo like Adidas. And if you're telling me that Black Lives Matter has been whittled down to a political statement or a logo, then you're basically telling me that Black lives don't matter."
Decision Overruled, Official Banned
In response to the official's ruling, Duluth YMCA staff disputed the claim and contacted the YMCA leadership. Within 10 minutes of Dudley's arrival, the vice president of the Duluth Area Family YMCA arrived and quickly overruled the decision to disqualify Leidy and she was able to compete in the race.
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.