- Video from an Irish youth gymnastics meet showed various competitors being presented with medals. The only black girl in view is not given a medal by the judge.
- Various media outlets and international sporting figures claimed that this was due to racism, and that there is a culture of racism in Irish gymnastics and sport more widely.
The verdict: There is absolutely no evidence that the girl not being given a medal was due to racism. In fact, she was given a medal shortly thereafter, before she left the field of play. Furthermore, claims about the role of “systemic racism” in Irish gymnastics are wholly unsubstantiated. These claims amount to misinformation.
In recent days, a story about a black girl being deliberately refused a participation medal in an Irish gymnastics competition went viral. Prominent celebrities, media outlets, and NGOs claimed this was due to pervasive racism in Irish sport and failings of official sporting bodies.
Simone Biles, a black American high-profile gymnast, brought much attention to the matter:
when this video was circulating, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see, so I sent her a little video — Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) September 23, 2023
there is no room for racism in any sport or at all !!!!
INAR, a state-funded NGO with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, attacked the gymnastics body after the “Roots in Africa-Ireland Network” made several broad-ranging claims about the incident:
At INAR we are very uncomfortable with the way Gymnastics Ireland appear to have been dealing with this.— INAR – Irish Network Against Racism (@INARIreland) September 23, 2023
Rosemary C. Adaser, founder of the NGO “Association of Mixed-Race Irish” accused the official of snubbing the little girl:
Team effort from social media has ensured that the snubbing of the little Black girl by @GymnasticsIre will not be brushed under the carpet. The insult was 18 months ago. statement TWO days ago! Now Simone Biles Olympic Champion has expressed her dismay. https://t.co/FtwQvGI96G— Rosemary C Adaser (@MixedRaceIrish) September 24, 2023
Major news outlets ran with the story, including The Guardian linking the incident to claims about discrimination:
Gymnastics Ireland fails to apologise despite row over medal snub for black girl https://t.co/dWCljKHoSn— Guardian news (@guardiannews) September 24, 2023
- The incident occurred in March 2022. The official was confused as to which children were to be given medals but quickly rectified the mistake. The girl can be seen in a video, smiling with medals around her neck:
- Gymnastics Ireland mediated the complaint from the child’s parent against the official. The official apologised and said it was a simple mistake.
- The child’s parent pursued the matter further, and 18-months later is still ccomplaining that Gymnastics Ireland didn’t issue their own apology. The parent is also claiming the incident, and Ireland’s gymnastics scene, is fraught with racial bias.
There is not a single piece of evidence that the incident was due to racism. The official corrected the error swiftly, and subsequently apologised, with the assistance of Gymnastics Ireland. No evidence of pervasive systemic racism in Irish underage female gymnastics has been presented either. Due to the unfounded claims of commentators and the parent involved, we judge this claim to amount to misinformation.