A Letter to the Gymnastics Community on Racial and Social Justice
posted on 06/15/2020

Dear USA Gymnastics Members,

Over the past several weeks, we have been searching for how to respond to the gravity of events unfolding across the nation. The recent killings of unarmed Black people – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among others – have deeply affected us all, and have sparked a national conversation around the systemic racial injustice that continues to plague our country.

On June 1, we unequivocally affirmed that Black lives do matter, and that we stand in solidarity with the Black community and with all of those who fight for racial and social justice. The responses to our statement highlighted two key issues we would like to address:

First, some in the gymnastics community think that we, as an organization, should not talk about racism and injustice, either because of the nature of our organization’s purpose or because of our historical failure to protect athletes from abuse. While we understand this concern, and know that we must continue our mission to strengthen protections for athletes, we respectfully disagree.

As a national sports federation, we believe we have a responsibility to use our platform to stand for what we value most. We deeply value the diversity in our community, and strive to create an environment that is more welcoming and inclusive. We need to embrace discussion of sensitive topics in order to do that.

Additionally, we fully recognize that this organization has failed our athletes and the gymnastics community, and it will take more time – and much change – for us to earn your trust. We are working to make that change happen, and to prove to you that we are committed to transforming this organization. We have new leaders, new staff, new policies, and new priorities – which include a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, in addition to our renewed dedication to athlete safety. Taking a stand against injustice is part of those commitments, and requires that we lend our collective voice to be part of the demand for change. So, while this stance is different than what you might expect from the USA Gymnastics of years ago, we think that is a good thing.

Secondly, some have said that our statement of solidarity is not enough, that we must do more. We agree. It is not enough.

We know that we must start with listening, particularly to our community members of color, and learning from their experiences. Over the last several weeks, we have heard many stories of overt and subtle racism within gymnastics, and the toll it can take on athletes, parents, coaches, judges, and club owners. We thank those who have shared their experiences for their vulnerability and bravery, and we encourage everyone in the gymnastics community to reflect on these stories.

We also know that the recent brutality did not occur in a vacuum; it is part of a much larger system of racism and injustice that will take all of us to dismantle. We know that to be part of the solution, we must first look inward. We must look at ourselves with a critical eye, to see how unconscious bias impacts our individual perspectives and the gymnastics community as a whole.

As part of that effort, we are taking the following actions:

  • We will require implicit bias training for USA Gymnastics staff and leadership positions, and will endeavor to make similar training available to all members.
  • We will work with a credible researcher to analyze the role of implicit bias in judging.
  • We will use our platforms to amplify the voices of our community members from traditionally underrepresented groups, in order to share their experiences more broadly and facilitate continued conversation across the gymnastics community.
  • We will strengthen our internal hiring practices for both employees and contractors, to ensure that we are more intentional and proactive in seeking out staff, contractors, and business leaders from underrepresented groups.
  • Juneteenth (June 19th) will be a day of reflection for USA Gymnastics staff going forward. We are encouraging our staff to spend this day listening and learning, and finding ways to commit to concrete action steps to become better allies and advocates. We invite member gyms and clubs to recognize this important day in the history of our nation in their own way.

These steps are just the beginning, a place to start. We are committed to continuing this work, so that we can collectively create an organization and a gymnastics community that is more respectful, empathetic, equitable and inclusive. And we ask that you, our community, join us in that effort.

Sincerely,