Simone Biles, a gymnast representing the United States, pocketed four medals during the Gymnastics World Championship held in Antwerp, Belgium last week. This multiple victory helped her earn the all-around title for the event. This win is historical, indeed, largely because of the fact that there are but a handful of talented individuals who can achieve this prominence, and more so because Biles is the first Black woman to earn such an award.
This in itself is news, but it became an even bigger news story when a fellow competitor from Italy, Carlotta Ferlito, said during an interview that in the next competition, her team would paint themselves black in order to win. This was an obvious critique on the victory by Biles, and a very racist one at that.
This remark created a firestorm of comments both defending Biles and attacking Ferlito. The father of Biles, upon hearing the news, said that the racial comments made by Ferlito were both ‘insulting’ and “out of line.” He added further that their skin color has not served them any good thus far in their lives. However, Biles herself has remained quiet up until this time.
Ferlito, in apparent regret, tweeted some apologetic words directed towards Biles and the American gymnastics team, which has a relatively large number of African Americans. She said that the words she uttered were not meant to offend anyone, and that it was purely a reflexive reaction brought about by her nervousness and disappointment.
The President of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, meanwhile released a statement saying that the association and the country itself is very proud of its athletes and that he is quite thankful to Simone for bringing home the rare honor. He went on to express his disappointment in Ferlito and the entire Italian gymnastics association for not doing anything about the insulting and discriminatory words by one of their own.
This is not the first time that the country of Italy has gotten attention for its racism. The country is also known for citizens making comments about the first black minister, Cecile Kyenge looking like a monkey. During a speech earlier this year, she was hit with bananas by a fellow politician. Maybe Italy has an issue with racism.