Swimsuit ruling overturned at meet in Superior

After an independent volunteer official barred a student from participating in the Northern Sectional swim meet hosted by the Duluth YMCA due to a Black Lives Matter swimsuit, the decision was overturned and the official removed.

Duluth NAACP president Classie Dudley and Duluth swimmer Leidy Lyons
Duluth NAACP President Classie Dudley poses with Duluth swimmer Leidy Lyons in her Black Lives Matter swimsuit at the Northern Sectional meet at Superior High School on Sunday.
Contributed / Classie Dudley, Duluth Branch NAACP
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SUPERIOR — A youth swimmer was temporarily barred from participating in the Northern Sectional swim meet Sunday for wearing a Black Lives Matter swimsuit. But Duluth YMCA officials overturned the ruling and removed the independent volunteer who made the initial ruling. The swimmer was reinstated.

Duluth swimmer Leidy Lyons, 12, created a Black Lives Matter-themed swimsuit to wear to the meet after hearing about the shooting of Amir Locke by Minneapolis police last week, according to the Duluth Branch of the NAACP president Classie Dudley. Dudley said she was called by Leidy's mother after the official barred Leidy from participating further in the meet. Dudley then went to Superior High School to show her support.

"The official originally stated that it was politically motivated and that it goes against their policy of no political speech," Dudley said. "Leidy is 12 and she's trying to share the fact that she matters. There's nothing political about that."

The official later changed their reason for dismissal to one of logo size, rather than political speech.

"I didn't want to entertain that because it was obviously untrue," Dudley said. "Even if it was too big, Black Lives Matter isn't a logo like Adidas. And if you're telling me that Black Lives Matter has been whittled down to a political statement or a logo, then you're basically telling me that Black lives don't matter."


In response to the official's ruling, Duluth YMCA staff disputed the claim and contacted the YMCA leadership. Within 10 minutes of Dudley's arrival, the vice president of the Duluth Area Family YMCA arrived and quickly overruled the decision; Leidy was able to resume competing.

Leidy Lyons with supporters at swim meet
Leidy Lyons poses in her Black Lives Matter swimsuit with her supporters at the Northern Sectional swim meet.
Contributed / Duluth Branch of the NAACP

The official was also removed from the meet and will be banned from further Duluth YMCA-hosted meets.

The Duluth YMCA later put out a statement regarding the incident, stating that it would "hold officials accountable for further education to address systemic racism."

"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 statement said. "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."

Dudley said she didn't blame the YMCA and praised their swift action to remedy the situation.

"I'm also incredibly proud of Leidy through this situation. She had the opportunity to change, the official had said she could change and continue to compete," Dudley said. "And at 12 years old, she decided no, I'm going to stand up for what's right, and that's exactly what she did."

While police reform activists testifying Friday, Feb. 4, at the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee expressed overall support for the DFL’s public safety bill, they told representatives that a week is too long of a wait for grieving families.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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