Four of the five federations under the umbrella of United States Aquatic Sports, as well as the United State Olympic and Paralympic Committee, have released statements in light of the public calls for changes following the killing of 46-year-old unarmed black man George Floyd last week. USA Swimming, USA Diving, U.S. Synchronized Swimming and USA Water Polo put out statements on their websites or on social media, while U.S. Masters is yet to publicly make a statement.
Most prominently, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland sent a letter addressed to athletes that is garnering significant backlash on social media.
Specifically, critics including Olympic thrower Gwen Berry are pointing to the line “The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal.” They’re noting that last year, Hirshland and the USOPC put Berry and Olympic fencer Race Imboden on probation for 12 months after demonstrating (raising a fist and kneeling, respectively) on the podium at the 2019 Pan American Games.
Berry posted on Twitter demanding an apology in light of the statement. Hirshland’s full letter is below:
Dear Team USA athletes –
Like so many of you, I have watched the events of the past week unfold with a deep sense of despair and helplessness – questioning what I can do, what we in the Olympic and Paralympic community can do, and what all of us in our local communities can do, to bring forth honest conversation and enact necessary change.
We absolutely condemn the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States. It has no place in ours or any other community. It is clear there are no forces as ugly, damaging and demeaning as racism and marginalization practiced by some of those in positions of authority. It played out in Minneapolis in the most tragic and unconscionable way imaginable. It is being felt intensely across the United States day after day.
We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty.
As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.
In this moment, when you might otherwise be training and competing together, many of you are still isolated at home. Conversations had on the track or pool deck, or in social settings, aren’t happening as they would normally, and this only adds to the frustration.
We’ve heard directly from you how important community and comradery are to Team USA athletes. That’s why, on Friday we will convene and support an athlete town hall where you can openly discuss how you have been impacted personally, listen to each other, learn from each other, and support each other. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes. Registration information will be sent soon. This discussion cannot resolve these issues but it is essential to progress.
We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions. The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.
We’ve long celebrated the great power of sport as a way to unify nations and people in conflict. Today, and as we go forward, we believe unity among teammates, friends and colleagues can start to help heal our own.
CEO, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee
“Like you, we are at a loss. We are struggling to understand. We are listening. What we know is we stand firmly against social injustice and condemn racism and discrimination of any kind,” USA Swimming posted on its website. “We recognize there is much work to be done and we reaffirm our commitment to foster inclusion and to be an ally to those who work toward meaningful change. We will continue to use our platforms to educate and to inform. We commit to being a part of the solution. We are One Team and One Family.”
USA Diving took to Twitter to say it “stands alongside the individuals who are working to make the world a better place for all.”
Our promise is to never stop striving for an environment where all are safe from racism, intolerance, discrimination and cruelty.
We might not do it perfectly but we can and will become better together. We stand alongside every one working towards a better tomorrow for ALL pic.twitter.com/gsS25ZEiWD
— USA Diving (@USADiving) June 1, 2020
USA Artistic Swimming
In lieu of releasing a longer statement on the matter, USA Artistic swimming opted for a play on its recently-launched “We Move As One” campaign that began when the organization rebranded from “USA Synchronized Swimming” to “USA Artistic Swimming” in early March.
— USA Artistic Swimming (@ArtisticSwimUSA) June 2, 2020
USA Water Polo
USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey wrote that for members of the “water polo community,” “recent events should further strengthen our dedication to diversity and inclusion.”