Gabrielle Douglas’ recent interview on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” has her former coaches and classmates at Excalibur Gymnastics firing back at what they feel are unsubstantiated remarks. They have recently gone on a media spree to let everyone know that Gabrielle did not experience racism or bullying and she was not the only African-American attending the gym.
Excalibur’s CEO Gustavo Maure said the allegations that Gabrielle Douglas was bullied are unfounded and that former African-American teammates at the gym can attest to that. “Gabby’s remarks were hurtful and without merit,” Mauretold E! News. “We’ve had more African-Americans in elite [sic] and on the national team than any other gym in the country. Her African-American former teammates will answer this serious accusation … We are good people.”
During her sit down with Oprah, Gabrielle shared her experiences at her former gym, “I felt I was being bullied…I definitely felt isolated. I felt, ‘Why am I deserving this? Is it because I’m black?’”. She went on to further say how her former classmates made remarks about her being their slave when they needed someone to clean off the bars.In another recent interview with Gynewstics.com, Exacalibur’s Randy Stageburg, a former Senior International Elite and National Team member, says the accusations were false. “The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening,” Stageburg said. “Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up.”
Other former African-American gymnastics spoke out against Gabrielle’s claims as well, by leaving lengthy posts on Excalibur’s Facebook page. Marcia Newby, who was a senior gymnast stated, “During my attendance at Excalibur, I was never a victim of racism or bullying. There may have been arguments amongst my teammates but they were definitely handled appropriately and timely. Even though I did not personally experience bullying, I am not discounting that it happened to her. I think it’s essential to note two points: Bullying does not necessarily equate to the act of racism. The feeling of isolation can exaggerate a person’s perception in an uncomfortable situation. Thus, gathering from the interview, Gabrielle seems to associate the feeling of isolation to both being bullied and experiencing racism.
The backlash Gabrielle is receiving from her old gym isn’t new news. Earlier this year the The Virginian Pilot posted a report on the animosity the people at Excalibur felt towards Douglas. They complained about the money their gym fronted Douglas’ mother and how once she moved on to her current coaches gym, they were left in the dust. They described Douglas’ mother as a financially struggling single mother, who repeatedly made bad decisions in her relationship with Douglas’ father. They said they were also blindsided by Douglas’ mother, when the decision was made to move Douglas to Iowa to coach with Liang Chow.
Randy Stanburg’s mother, as well as her trainer, feels slighted. “It’s sickening,” she said, that most people will see only Chow smiling nearby whenever Douglas smiles back from a victory stand. “I know Gabby’s good, but she wasn’t made by Chow. You don’t make an Olympian in a year and a half.”
In denying the accusations even further, Excalibur’s CEO also stated, “Do you know Gabby and her mother to know certainly how much you can trust them? Mrs. Hawkins expressed (in the media) different causes for Gabby to leave Excalibur during the last 2 years, the bullying/racial issue seems to be her latest attempt and making Excalibur look back. If Gabby was suffering from bullying, why didn’t Mrs. Hawkins ever mention it while Gabby was training here or complain after she left Excalibur? I wish to defend the children that trained with her and supported her when she attacks them with these allegations.Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic Champion? She is not giving any names or dates, leading us to believe that the accusation is fake. This wouldn’t be the first time that the media has made up a story.”
Excalibur’s response to Gabrielle’s claims seem to be off-putting to some, as one person posted on their Facebook page, “Please rethink your response to Gabby Douglas over the Labor Day weekend. The only appropriate response is to acknowledge her claims and to say you will investigate the culture at the gym to see where you might improve.”
Maybe Excalibur should realize, just because one black child wasn’t harassed, doesn’t mean that another wasn’t.