PA Headlines 5/2/22
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting… A youth soccer player was sidelined during a game in Bucks County last weekend after a referee said the beads in her hair posed a danger to other players, her coach said. The referee ejected sixth grader Hiyanah Shannon Wilson – who goes by the nickname “Sassy” – while she was playing in an Inter-County Youth Soccer League game, said Carly Najera, Wilson’s Kensington Soccer Club coach. The referee told Wilson that she could only keep playing if she cut out the beads, even though they were secured, Najera said, and then yelled at Najera when the coach asked about the decision.
“If there are rules in place that are old and they exclude certain kids,” Najera said, “I think soccer organizations should want to be more inclusive, not less.” She said she did not believe Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, the association that oversees the travel league, was “a racist organization” but said its rules should be changed so this does not happen to another child. Wilson and Najera, who had driven an hour from Kensington to make the game in Perkasie, arrived as it was starting, Najera said. But within 30 seconds of Wilson taking the field, the referee ejected the 11-year-old, who is Black, due to her hair beads being considered prohibited jewelry.
Hair beads, an important part of Black style and culture, have been at the center of some recent controversies in youth and high school sports across the country, with rules ostensibly about athlete safety now widely viewed as discrimination against athletes of color. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association this week lifted its rule prohibiting student athletes from wearing hair beads during competitions after 30 school superintendents asked it to do so. The superintendents said the rule was discriminatory. A video also went viral this week of a high school powerlifter’s teammates and opponents working together to help remove her hair beads so she wouldn’t be disqualified from the Mississippi state championships.