Athletes who made racist joke against black gymnast and teammate are suspended by Brazilian Gymnastics Federation

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Note from BW of Brazil: Alright, so the politically correct action has been done. Following up on a story presented here a little less than a week ago, three athletes who found it funny to compare a black teammate to a garbage bag were suspended for the incident. Of course this is an action should have been taken, but the rest of the incident is completely indicative of how racial issues are handled in Brazil. More on this later, but as it turns out, this wasn’t the first time the athlete had been the target of racist behavior in the sport. Ângelo Assumpção recently revealed that:

Magali Dias Assumpção, athlete's mother
Magali Dias Assumpção, athlete’s mother

Video wasn’t the first case of racism suffered by revelation of the gymnast
By Bruno Doro e Fábio Aleixo

Before reaching the National Team, when he started in the sport, he suffered with a training partner. “There was a boy who provoked me. I think that he didn’t accept training in the same place as me. The problem is that I was black,” said the gymnast. This issue has always been a concern of Ângelo’s mother, Magali Dias Assumpção. “There are not many black people in gymnastics, it’s a reality. And we suffer [prejudice]. Not just for being black, but there is also the suspicion with sexuality. But I don’t have any kind of prejudice,” she said.

Note from BW of Brazil: This idea that gymnastics is not a sport meant for black participation is reminiscent of the comments made of the most successful gymnast in Brazil’s history, Daiane dos Santos. But returning today’s piece, below is news on the latest flare up in racist behavior and how the issue is being dealt with. 

CBG suspends gymnasts involved in racism scandal

Courtesy of Esportes Terra

Nory Arthur Mariano, Fellipe Arakawa and Henrique Flores were suspended for a racist joke they were heard making about teammate Ângelo Assumpção (second from left)
Nory Arthur Mariano, Fellipe Arakawa and Henrique Flores were suspended for a racist joke they were heard making about teammate Ângelo Assumpção (second from left)

The Brazilian Gymnastics Federation (CBG) announced officially on Wednesday, that athletes Nory Arthur Mariano, Fellipe Arakawa and Henrique Flores will be removed from the men’s National Team, after a racist joke they did with Ângelo Assumpção in a video. The preventive suspension will be effective from Thursday, for a period of 30 days or until the final decision of the entity.

In the controversial video posted on Arthur Nory’s social network Snapchat profile last week, he, Santino and Henrique made supposedly racist comments about Ângelo Assumpção, who appears in the recording, seemingly embarrassed by the offenses of his teammates.

In the same recording, the gymnasts try to make peace with Ângelo, who does not seem to want to talk with his colleagues Arthur, Fellipe and Henrique. Only afterward did Ângelo appear in a video apology, appearing to be more tranquil.

Gymnasts of the National Team apologize after racist jokes

With the suspension, Arthur, Fellipe and Henrique are out of any national or international event, besides having financial incentives and scholarships suspended. The final decision is up to the Superior Court of Sports Justice (STJD) of Gymnastics. There is no deadline for announcing the measures to be taken

In his Instagram, Nory said he crossed the limit: “This is a team and everything is fine. We exaggerate and pass over limits. Here everybody likes everybody. Please don’t misunderstand….”

Shielded by the Gymnastics Federation, Ângelo Assumpção is cautious when talking about racial slurs

“They are all my friends and it’s not up to me to determine what should be done,” said the gymnast

By Claudio Nogueira and Victor Costa

Gymnast Ângelo Assumpção during a training session
Gymnast Ângelo Assumpção during a training session

Gold medalist at the World Cup held in São Paulo, Ângelo Assumpção talks about his colleagues: ‘We are a team and we remain united’

Since the beginning of the impact of the video containing racist slurs released exclusively by Globo last Friday, Ângelo Assumpção has not gone public to explain clearly what happened between the Brazilian athletes in Portugal. The gymnast is silent and the only possible contact is through e-mails that pass through the hands of the press office of the Brazilian Gymnastics Confederation (CBG). The response carries a political tone.

“With the speed of the internet, everything spreads rapidly and ultimately everything falls on social networks, being good or bad, can take on a proportion that it took,” he wrote, when asked if the impact was greater than it should be.

Not letting the athlete come into direct contact with the press to explain the case has been the tactic of CBG. The trainings which include Ângelo, Fellipe, Arthur and Henrique are being conducted behind closed doors in the CT in Barra da Tijuca and there is no projected date for a press conference. Sought, the CBG reported that president Luciene Resende cannot talk about any subject, even with the serious charge of an injúria racial (racial slur).

Still from a video shared on a social network in which an inappropriate joke was made about Ângelo Assumpção
Still from a video shared on a social network in which an inappropriate joke was made about Ângelo Assumpção

In the midst of this silence, it’s impossible to know how Ângelo is emotionally and how he has been oriented. His last appearance was in a video in which he appears embarrassed, saying that it was all a joke, alongside the other three athletes who committed libel: Arthur Nory, Fellipe Arakawa and Henrique Flores (son of Marcos Goto, who is black and trains the Olympic and world champion Arthur Zanetti).

Gymnast Henrique Flores appears at the side of his father Marcos Goto
Gymnast Henrique Flores appears at the side of his father Marcos Goto

“My objective is very clear: I want to continue being part of the National Team and search results for my country. That’s what I’m focused on,” Ângelo said.

In one of his responses to the interview by e-mail, Ângelo prefers not to issue an opinion and transfers to CBG all liabilities of the measures to be taken about the episode:

“All are my friends and it’s not for me to determine what should be done. This decision is up to the CBG.”

Defense for the technical commission

In court, it’s only possible to judge a case of injúria racial if the victim registers a case against the accused. By the statements and the actual position of the CBG, it seems that Ângelo will not take the case any further. However, Educafro, an organization that organizes pre-university preparation for black and disadvantaged youth, is considering a lawsuit. They will allege that the offenses affected not only Ângelo, but black Brazilians as a whole.

“The offense of calling blacks garbage bags is even now hurting my self-esteem as a black. I’m not garbage,” said Frei (Friar) David dos Santos, director of Educafro.

After the controversial video made headlines, teammates quickly recorded a video at the side of Assumpção issuing an apology
After the controversial video made headlines, teammates quickly recorded a video at the side of Assumpção issuing an apology

Asked if he would defend his colleagues at a trial, Ângelo was direct:

“They repented, are suffering the consequences of what they did, and if any defense was required, I would rather that be made by the technical committee.”

Despite all the negative repercussions of the video, Ângelo ensures that the atmosphere of the Brazilian National Team has not changed:

“The environment remains as before and with only one objective:  represent the country well in major competitions. We are a team and we remain united.”

After the release of the video, the defendants have received numerous threats on social networks. On this point, Ângelo is worried about the safety of his colleagues:

“I am against any kind of aggression, even verbal. They cannot be treated like criminals. They were wrong, they repented, and there is no reason to be threatened. Nothing can be solved this way.”

Gymnast Ângelo Assumpção
Gymnast Ângelo Assumpção

Note from BW of Brazil: OK, let’s let’s analyze this in the context of how racial issues are dealt with and reacted to in Brazil. The first thing that struck me about this case is how it was quickly pushed on the rug and dealt in a manner that in reality will change nothing in terms of tendencies and free will to make such comments in the future. First of all, the three apparently saw nothing wrong with making such comments, which tells me that they’ve probably done so before. The fact that they posted the video online shows how comfortable they were in making such comments and the security that nothing would happen to them that they posted it for all the world to see. Second, if there had been no uproar over the comments, they would have probably never even have thought of issuing an apology and felt at will to say such things whenever they so pleased. 

The third thing I have questions about is the reaction of Assumpção himself. Was his ease in accepting the apology and coming to the defense of his teammates genuinely how he felt or was to coached on what to say? Is he the type who really doesn’t want to believe that his friends could offend him in such way or is he simply brushing this off as his friends having a little fun at his expense? Also, being in a sport that is overwhelmingly white in which he is the only black athlete on the gymnastics team, did he feel pressured to help push this under rug without really speaking out the issue? After all, one can only imagine what type of harassment he could be subjected to if he had decided to push the issue. There are clearly ways that people can make his life difficult in manners that would be more difficult to prove.  

Fourth, although the athletes have been suspended, it still reminds me of other incidents of racism that were turned into a mockery, or devoid of any real discussion while pretending to take legitimate action (see here and here). Why? Because after the suspension blows over and assuming that Assumpção continues his desire to defend, forgive and forget, things will simply go back to the normal “Brazilians aren’t racist/we are all equal” discourse that continues to allow the behavior to exist without any true reaction. After all, if this is how people who believe in white supremacy feel, a brief suspension won’t change how they feel. 

The fifth and last striking point about this case is that one of the gymnasts caught up in the controversy, Henrique Flores, has a black father. None of the three accused of making the racist joke look white in European understanding of race, but it was still intriguing to see that at least one of them has a clearly black parent. And this fact once again touches upon a typical excuse that one finds not only in Brazil, but in other Latin American countries as well: the idea that the simple existence of a non-white relative in one’s family automatically disqualifies one from possibly being considered a racist. The fact that Flores could participate in such a cruel joke knowing that his own father is about the same skin tone as Assumpção shows that regardless of how close dark skin is in his family tree, he doesn’t identify or sympathize with the struggle of persons who look like his father. The fact that he didn’t feel the need to support Assumpção or reject the joke as it took place shows that, black father  or not, his skin color gives him a privilege that allows him to partake in the sort of anti-black behavior that has been a part of Brazilian culture for centuries. 

With that said, let’s just sit back and watch the outcome of this latest glaring example of how racist, white supremacist views manifest in Brazil. But as with numerous other similar cases, don’t expect anything serious to come out of this after it blows over; after all, it was ‘just a joke’, right?

Source: O Globo, Esportes Terra, UOL Olimpiadas

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. My heart goes out to the young man at the center of this. I do not think he has “easily” accepted the apology. Rather, I think that he feels the pressure of being an “only Black” training with a bunch people who are not as Black as he. He must feel the peer pressure and the political pressure from this incedent. Brazil does not have as strong history of prominent Black Brazilians with any kind of platform speaking out against racism. I only see Brazilian intellectual (who are generally not that well known to most Brazilians, unfortunately) speaking out against it, or single “regular folk” going to the news outlets when they feel they have been victimized. I think he is truly in a difficult position, but I do admire his grace in handling the situation, and I know that he and his family are probably secretly pleased with this outcome.

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