The family of a Black girl who was snubbed at a Gymnastics Ireland medal ceremony in March 2022 has claimed that the organization suppressed a lengthy written apology from the judge responsible for the snub.
Footage of the incident, which shows a judge handing out participation medals to a line of young gymnasts but ignoring the only Black girl in the line, has recently gone viral on social media, receiving widespread condemnation.
The footage has been viewed millions of times on X, formerly known as Twitter, and has drawn responses from Olympic US gymnasts Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles.
Gymnastics Ireland (GI) issued a statement on September 22 in response to the mounting international outrage. The statement said in part: "A written apology provided by the identified individual has since been issued to the competitor and her family."
This was widely reported as an institutional apology from the organization, but it was not.
"I don’t understand why media kept saying they offered an apology," the girl's mother told the Guardian.
The girl's mother also claimed that GI suppressed a lengthy apology from the judge in question, instead issuing an unsigned two-lined apology addressed "To whom it may concern."
She said she did not consider the apology an appropriate response to the incident and said she has seen the original personal apology from the judge.
"They need to explain why that [original apology] was withheld," the girl's mother told the Guardian.
The girl's mother said GI issued the original statement without consulting the family and accused the organization of attempting to vindicate itself.
GI said it initially treated the incident as a member-to-member complaint, adding that it only recently became aware that the family wanted a public apology. It said it sent a letter to the family on Sunday, which it published on Monday.
"After this horrendous incident, who wouldn’t think they should apologize?" the girl's mother told the Guardian.
"They have just sent me a letter this evening [on Sunday]. It took well over a year, and after millions of people internationally have been disgusted by the incident.
"It is useless to me because they are not addressing the issues of racism and safety. I would love to hear them say things like ‘the next Black child who comes into gymnastics will be safe'."
The girl's family accused GI of failing to make any public statements to investigate the incident over the past 18 months in addition to failing to implement any anti-racism policies or improve protections for athletes of color.
In its original statement, the organization said the incident had been resolved following mediation that concluded in August.
However, the girl's mother said this was not the case.
She said GI did not participate in the mediation as an institution, instead treating the matter as a personal failure by one of its members. She added that mediation only took place as a result of international pressure at the time.
"When it was clear no one from GI coming, I considered walking out," she said.
In response, GI said it went to "great lengths" to get both parties to take part in mediation, adding that it only recently became aware that the girl's family wanted an official GI representative present at the meetings.
The girl's mother ultimately decided to stay in the meeting and subsequently discovered that the judge had written a long personal apology shortly after the medal ceremony, which was never passed on to the family.
"I didn’t believe her initially. But her email account showed the woman had sent a more detailed apology letter, and Gymnastics Ireland had withheld it from me."
The girl's mother, who has asked to remain anonymous, said she has contacted An Garda Síochána over fears that her family will be subjected to racist abuse over the incident.
She has also asked for GI's help removing the video from social media, stating that she is worried that the footage will spark a racist backlash against her family.