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LIU gymnasts speak about UCLA gymnastics team scandal

By Ella Barrington, Staff Writer

The UCLA Gymnastics Bruins has been under the spotlight in the media due to a recent racial scandal occurring within the team. Former UCLA freshman gymnast Alexis Jeffery, after being admitted to UCLA on a full athletic scholarship, transferred to LSU Gymnastics as a walk-on for the spring semester after being accused of saying racial slurs towards Black and Asian people.

Ever since the death of George Floyd, the UCLA Gymnastics team has been consistently vocal on the racial inequality issues that have been occurring nationwide. But with the recent controversy, the athletic department at the school, as well as the coaches of the team, haven’t been as outspoken about the matter as they famously have been in the past by refusing to put out a statement on the situation until the public, as well as the gymnasts on the team had publicly called them out for it.

On Jan. 26, in a podcast by Amanda Seals called Small Doses, Seals welcomed two Black gymnasts from the UCLA Gymnastics team: Seniors Margzetta Frazier and Sekai Wright. Seals believed it was important to give these two women a platform for their voice.

“I wanted to bring them out here today because I don’t think it’s fair that the story is only being told by one side,” Seals said.

In this podcast, these two women shared their experiences with Seals, not only about Jeffrey but also about the coaching staff at UCLA Gymnastics. And though, both Frazier and Wright shared their stories, Frazier took the lead throughout the podcast from the beginning.

“We’ve been in silence for three months about this problem,” Frazier said.

Before the situation got out of control, Wright says that she had taken Jeffrey in as a sister and showed her the ropes of college and being a student-athlete. But once the racial statements Jeffrey made got out of control, Wright decided to distance herself from Jeffrey and the situation in fear of being a target.

“When she [Jeffrey] came in, she kind of attached onto me… there were a couple times where she said somethings that were kind of inappropriate, and I checked her about it, and things were never said again to me,” Wright said on Small Doses. “I told the coaches I didn’t want to be involved in it at first just because I have dealt with situations like this [racism] before. I already knew myself and how I would react to the situation so I just stood back because I didn’t wanna be a target.” 

Jeffrey had denied the allegations after a teammate explained why her comments were hurtful and when the leaders came to the realization that Jeffrey had made inappropriate and racial comments on more than one occasion, Frazier asked her coaches what Jeffrey’s consequences were.

“There’s rules when you steal, there’s rules when you fail a drug test, there’s gotta be rules when you’re racist or a bully, so what are they?” Frazier asked. 

The response of the coaches was not something that Frazier nor her team wanted to hear. 

“We want to take Lexi [Jeffrey] in and really educate her on what she did wrong,” she said.

On Jan. 25, head coach of LSU Gymnastics, Jay Clark, confirmed in a press conference that Jeffrey was an active member of the roster and will be eligible to compete for LSU as soon as possible. 

“There is not an issue within our team surrounding this or anything else right now,” Clark said. 

Jeffrey has still yet to apologize to the UCLA Gymnastics team, or seek any punishment for her wrongdoings.

Members of the LIU Gymnastics team have their own opinions about the situation, and believe that the sport of gymnastics is supposed to be a loving environment and actions such as Jeffrey’s should not be tolerated at any school.

Sophomore gymnast Riley Goldberg, who is from California, and has close friends that are on the UCLA Gymnastics team, wonders what will happen next.

“After speaking to some of my friends that are on the team and hearing that some of the girls want the head coach fired for not taking the matter seriously enough, I wonder if the athletic department will do their part in giving them what they want after everything they’ve been through,” Goldberg said.

Freshman gymnast Ilka Juk believes that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should have gotten involved and that her actions should’ve received larger repercussions than she did.

“I just can’t believe she [Jeffrey] got off scot-free. If she was in a professional work setting, which in a way she was, she would’ve gotten fired so I think that the NCAA should’ve at least suspended her and her eligibility for competing as an athlete. Shame on Lexi, shame on Chris Waller, and shame on Jay Clark,” Juk said.

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