Photo: Getty
  /  02.09.2022

A Black girl’s decision to wear a BLM-inspired swimsuit nearly cost her a spot in a recent swim meet. As CNN reported, 12-year-old Leidy Gellona was moved by the story of Amir Locke — the 22-year-old who was killed by Minneapolis police executing a no-knock warrant — and chose to honor him with her swimwear. Working alongside her mother Sarah Lyons, she decorated her outfit with the words “Black Lives Matter,” but unbeknownst to her, the message wouldn’t be well-received by organizers of her competition.

After swimming her first race at the Superior High School on Sunday (Feb. 6), Gellona was told that she wouldn’t move on to the next event because her suit “went against USA Swimming‘s policy of no political language.” She refused to change her outfit despite having another option in hand.

“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,” Gellona said in an interview with CNN’s “New Day.” “I felt bad and I felt disrespected because I wanted to show that I mattered.”

Lyons contacted the head of the Duluth NAACP to assist in the situation, and the decision to ban the 12-year-old was eventually reversed by the Duluth YMCA. Gellona was then allowed to rejoin her fellow swimmers and participate in the swim meet.


“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 train all staff and volunteers on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the organization said in a statement. The official who “inappropriately barred Gellona,” they added, has been banned from future swim meets.


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