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UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier calls for coaching change amid hostile environment

UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier calls for coaching change amid hostile environment

Correction: Margzetta Frazier was incorrectly quoted in the original version of this article. In fact, the quote was actually from Sekai Wing.

This post was last updated Jan. 26, at 7:39 p.m.

At least one Bruin coach has been publicly called out by a gymnast to fire Chris Waller.

Margzetta Frazier and Sekai, UCLA gymnastics seniors, appeared on the comedian and actress Amanda Seales podcast Small Doses With Amanda Seales on Wednesday to discuss current state of UCLA’s team.

Frazier called for Waller’s firing and said that she hadn’t spoken to her coach in several weeks.

Frazier said on the podcast, “I want the head coach fired.” I want a statement made about us, protecting our girls.

[Related: UCLA gymnasts express displeasure on Twitter, call for attention of UCLA Athletics]

According to the Los Angeles Times the podcast appearance came one day after Martin Jarmond (UCLA athletic director) met with the team. Jarmond issued a statement later that day confirming that experts in equity, diversity, and inclusion have met with the team over three months. 

Frazier spoke out in an interview with The LA Times about Jarmonds’ statement. Because none of the previous efforts had specifically addressed racism on this team.

Frazier began her podcast remarks Wednesday by confirming reports regarding the transfer of freshman Alexis Jeffrey. Frazier confirmed rumors that Jeffrey  who has since transferred to LSU  used racial slurs while singing song lyrics and was told to stop by multiple members of the team.

LSU Athletics confirmed Tuesday to The Bruin that Jeffrey had transferred into their program, but stated Wednesday that the gymnast was not available for comment.

Frazier also stated that Jeffrey took other steps to degrade her teammates.

Frazier stated that there was more than one thing that was considered inappropriate. Frazier mentioned that Frazier was not referring to racial issues, but that Frazier was referring to ranking girls based upon their ugliness and body shape. And clearly, the Black girls would all be at or near the bottom rank.

Wright stated on the podcast, When Jeffrey joined the program as a freshman, she took him under her wing. She also shared that she had witnessed Jeffrey make inappropriate comments and confronted about them. Wright stated that she took a step back after the problem spread to the team because she didn’t want to be a target.

Wright stated on the podcast that I was unable to speak when all this was happening. I had to stop speaking because I felt they would silence me, regardless of what I said. I had to silence myself because I just didn’t want to be attacked.

Jeffrey didn’t apologize after being confronted by the team about her use of racial insults. Instead, Frazier said that the language she used was common in her home country. After further resistance from the team, Frazier stated that Jeffrey left practice and texted her teammate that she was going after herself.

Frazier responded to Jeffrey’s threats by saying that the team met and was instructed to treat Jeffrey with grace, compassion, and respect. 

Wright stated that Wright was not able to get the same response when Wright brought up her own mental health issues.

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When I was struggling with my mental health and I was threatening to harm myself, I didn’t get any of this treatment, Wright said on the podcast. I didn’t get any of the private photo shoots because I couldn’t be around people. I wasn’t shown any grace.

Frazier said that the UCLA Athletics administration was not responsive to the team’s request to meet with them to discuss the situation.

When I did talk to (an) assistant (athletic director), and I brought that up months later, probably two months later, I brought up the girls in the gym are still miserable  (and) she said, You’re still not over it? Frazier stated on the podcast that she thought we were done with this. I said, No, we’re not over it.

UCLA hosted its first ever Black Excellence Meet in 2021 to honor its Black gymnasts. Nia Dennis, a former Bruin gymnast, brought attention to the program following her floor routine that featured music by Black artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Soulja Boy. Fraziers routine earned hundreds of thousands of viewers a season earlier.

The Bruins were expected to wear the Black Excellence leotards they debuted last season in their season opener on Jan. 17. Frazier claimed that the team refused to wear the leotards, which they had debuted a season ago.

Frazier said that for a long time it felt performative. None of the Black girls feel comfortable or respected. Or any other girl of color. None of them. We all feel unsafe, scared.

Wright expressed concern that future Black gymnasts will face the same issues after they complete the program.

Wright said that the UCLA gymnastics legacy would be lost forever.

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