Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito has apologized for racial remarks she made toward American gymnast Simone Biles.
Biles won the all-around gold medal at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp last week, becoming the first black woman to accomplish the feat in World Championships history. Unfortunately, her accomplishments were overshadowed by Ferlito's remarks.
Nellie Biles, Simone's mother, said that her daughter had been negatively affected by Ferlito's comments, via Kelly Whiteside of USA Today:
It did bother her. I told her, 'Don't get roped into this' and, 'Don't let those comments ruin this moment for you. Just be proud of your performance and outcome.' People are entitled to their opinion. For her to go into this racism stuff is pointless, and she's not going to address it.
Her father, Ron, added, "I found it very insulting. The racial comment was really out of line."
According to Whiteside, Ferlito—who finished fifth in balance beam, two spots behind Biles—said in a video interview after the competition, "I told (teammate Vanessa Ferrari) that next time we should also paint our skin black so then we can win, too."
Needless to say, those comments didn't go over well, with Ferlito catching a lot of heat.
The Italian issued her apology through Twitter:
I want to apologize with the Americans girls. I didn't want to sound rude or racist. I love Simone and I'm a huge fan of USA gymnastics.— Carlotta Ferlito (@CarlottaFerlito) October 8, 2013
I've made a mistake, I'm not perfect, I was too nervous and I didn't think about what I was saying. I'm just a human. I'm so so sorry.— Carlotta Ferlito (@CarlottaFerlito) October 8, 2013
The Italian Gymnastics Federation has also issued an official apology, per Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune:
The Italian Gymnastics Federation is aware of the Twitter apology its athlete, Carlotta Ferlito, gave about statements she made after the all-around final ... statements that, knowing the moral qualities of this Sicilian athlete, can only have been misunderstood.
However, (federation) president Riccardo Agabio is seizing this opportuity to condemn strongly and distance (the federation) from any form of racism and discrimination, which are not part of the history and culture of Italian gymnastics.
Regardless of Ferlito's intentions and obvious frustrations, the fact is she made an ill-conceived statement that obviously came across very poorly.
Still, there's perhaps a larger issue at hand here.
Racism and sports are no strangers around the globe. Black soccer players like Mario Balotelli are routinely abused by fans across Europe, and sometimes players are the victims of other players' comments. In 2011, for example, Luis Suarez was banned eight matches for racially abusing Patrice Evra in the English Premier League.
Gymnastics isn't even immune to the issue, as United States star Gabby Douglas, who because the first black woman to win Olympic all-around gold in 2012, claims to have been racially abused earlier in her career.
It's a societal problem that continues to blemish the sporting world, and unfortunately this is unlikely to be the last time a story like this makes headlines.