St. James gymnasts take a stand for racial equality with anthem protest

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

Throughout the 2020-2021 St. James gymnastics season, a trio of Saints gymnasts took a stand against racial injustices through the act of kneeling during the National Anthem prior to gymnastics meets.

Saints senior captain Gabriela Trapero, as well as her sister Daniela, and Ruby Zamora, both eighth-graders, 

It was the older Trapero who set the tone at the first meet of the year against Fairmont/Martin County West on January 26. 

"For me, it's important because there are many people out there that are scared to raise their voice because of backlash for what they believe in," said Trapero. "I feel like [since] I have an opportunity to use my voice and I don't really care what people think of me... I just feel like it's important that other people understand the spectrum of other people's lives. I feel like it's fair to have minority voices heard."

Trapero was also a voice in the Black Lives Matter rally over the summer.

The Saints say they didn't have a group discussion or conversation about kneeling during the National Anthem, it was something that just happened.

"I've always had a large opinion on things especially on politics and how I'm treated and how other people are treated," said Zamora. "I didn't want to be the only one, because it's hard to be the only one doing something. So it was a lot easier when someone like Gabby did it first."

"When I saw Gabby do it, I knew we had to start a small, peaceful protest," said Daniela Trapero.

Other teammates also joined in the act, if only for a handful of meets.

"One met where we had almost everyone kneeling was really empowering," said Gabby Trapero. 

The only time the Saints saw or heard any complaints was during a meet against Waseca, where two individuals approached and talked to head coach Laura Berg-Olson.

Each Saint said that a reason as to why they knelt was due to some of the language and ways they are treated at school.

"I see how I'm treated day-to-day, being Hispanic, and it's not right," said Zamora.

"People might not understand how degrading the looks we get when we speak our own language in public or when we just look different," said Gabriela Trapero. "It does affect us and we do notice it."

In an ever-growing Hispanic community, the Trapero's and Zamora say the strong presence of the Hispanic community gave them the confidence to be vocal.

All three Saints stressed that the act was not in disrespect of veterans. 

"I want people to know that we're not kneeling to disrespect people who have fought for this country or people who have died for this country," said Gabby Trapero. 

"One thing [is] for certain—I will stand for veterans and thank them for what they have done," echoed Zamora.

Zamora does plan to continue kneeling during the spring track season, and in cross country in the fall. Trapero will attend St. Olaf and plans to continue to be a voice in college.