The 12-year-old girl was showered with support online for taking a brave stand. NBA star LeBron James also praised her.
Support is pouring in from all corners for a 12-year-old girl who was disqualified from a Wisconsin swim meet for wearing a homemade Black Lives Matter swimsuit. She missed a race because of the "ban" but the meet official reversed their decision and let Leidy Gellona participate in other races. Sarah Lyons, the girl's mother, said Leidy is very interested in social justice and wanted to wear the message "Black Lives Matter" for the meet. Leidy and Lyons bought iron-on letters the night before the swim meet and put them on the suit. Leidy wanted to wear the words after discussing the death of 22-year-old Amir Locke, who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police while executing a no-knock warrant, reported CNN.
As she was getting prepared for her next event after her first race at Superior High School in Superior, a volunteer official approached her and said she couldn't compete in that suit. "I went to my mom and told her, and I was like 'I'm not going to take it off' and my mom was like 'OK.' So, she went to talk to the official and she started making phone calls because I said no," said Leidy. "I felt bad and I felt disrespected because I wanted to show that I mattered."
In case y'all haven't heard, 12 year-old Leidy Lyons was disqualified from a local meet for wearing this swimsuit. She stood strong in her belief that Black Lives Matter, and refused to change. Our branch members showed up to support her and ultimately had the ruling overturned! pic.twitter.com/buMHEuPVrB— Duluth Branch NAACP (@duluthnaacp) February 10, 2022
Leidy's mother Lyons said her daughter did have another suit at hand to change into but decided against it. "She came and told me that she was absolutely not taking the suit off and I said, 'Whatever you want to do I support that,'" said Lyons, who was cool with it and backed her daughter. "If you don't want to I 100 percent support you," she recalled telling her daughter. "And she said, 'Mom, I'm not taking it off.'"
Lyons said her daughter was upset and in tears after being told to change out of her top. She immediately contacted the head of the Duluth NAACP and related the incident. The volunteer had claimed that it 'went against USA Swimming's policy of no political language.' The decision was immediately revoked by the Duluth Area Family YMCA, which sponsored the event. The organizers said, "an independent volunteer official inappropriately barred a student-athlete from taking part in the meet, due to their 'Black Lives Matter' swimsuit."
Leidy had missed one event but was allowed to continue participating in the others events at the swim meet. Duluth YMCA also confirmed that the 'volunteer' had been banned from future swim meets hosted by the organizers. "The Duluth YMCA is saddened that the student, their family, and teammates had to endure this unacceptable behavior. The Duluth YMCA will continue our ongoing commitment to training all staff and volunteers on diversity, equity, and inclusion," said the organization.
LOVE THE SUIT!! Miss Lyons I hope you have a great season and reach all your swimming goals! Maybe some day you will represent the US in the Olympics! pic.twitter.com/lHSkmiTuTo— Donna Ashworth🌊🇺🇸 (@DonnaAshworth15) February 11, 2022
"We need to protect our young Black girls and stand up against racism without being performative," read a statement from the Duluth NAACP chapter. The YMCA reiterated that it prioritizes diversity and inclusion. "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.
Messages of support have been flowing in for Leidy online. NBA star LeBron James also shared a story on Instagram praising Leidy's courageous stand. Leidy isn't on Instagram but when she heard about LeBron's story she was over the moon. "I was so excited when I heard about it. I told my friends and they were like 'oh my gosh, he's the best,' so I was pretty excited when I heard about that," said Leidy. "I heard that he called me a beautiful young Black queen and I was like 'yay!'."