Shortly after the killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25, USA Swimming – amid national protests – released a statement saying that it “stand[s] firmly against social injustice and condemn[s] racism and discrimination of any kind.” But that statement drew criticism on social media for not specifically using the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
That criticism cam especially from an account called “afroswimmers” that is run by Noelle F. Singleton. The account’s post on the matter received support from several US National Team swimmers, including most visibly Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel, who both commented her support for the original post and shared the post to her personal Instagram account.
In response, last Friday, USA Swimming released a second statement detailing a proposed path forward to deal with diversity in the sport of swimming and acknowledging the sport’s racist history – and specifically stating “Black Lives Matter.”
According to a report from USA Today on Friday, current and former National Team member Reece Whitley, Lia Neal, Cullen Jones, Jack LeVant and Natalie Hinds “provided feedback” on the second statement “as well as deeper institutional changes the organization should make. Whitley preempted the group’s effort and had already called USA Swimming to give feedback on “what he saw as shortcomings in the governing body’s original statement.”
All who provided feedback to USA Swimming had already taken to social media to give their thoughts on the current climate. Additionally, Whitley, Jones, and Neal were featured giving minutes-long testimonies on “Uninterrupted” – LeBron James’ athlete-empowerment platform – Friday in honor of Juneteenth. According to USA Today, Neal orchestrated those appearances.
In his video, Whitley talks about how when he was an age group swimmer, team parents spread and rumor that he was adopted from Africa and lying about his age.
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Continue to donate, protest and advocate for the end of racial injustice. The essence of this movement is that my truth, your truth, is as valid and meaningful as any. #SincerelyYours @reecewhitley #BlackLivesMatter #LiftBlackVoices #MoreThanAnAthlete Take action & donate to @naacp_ldf
Neal has also co-founded “Swimmers for Change,” a webinar initiative that aims to provide a platform for the swimming community to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement while working towards combatting systemic racism in the US.