At five years old, Kymora Johnson wanted to play basketball. Because there were no girls teams in her hometown of Charlottesville, Va., her mother, Jessica Thomas-Johnson, signed her up for the Charlottesville Cavaliers, an all-boys team. Kymora has played for the Cavs for the past five years without incident—until last weekend when the team was disqualified during the finals of the National Travel Basketball Association’s annual tournament because they had a girl player.
Petula Dvorak at the Washington Post writes:
Another team was also disqualified after officials realized a girl was on the team. Both of these girls had checked in at the beginning of the tournament. They had to present their birth certificates. They had to look the officials in the eyes.
“Kymora had her hair down. She had a headband on. She had hot pink nail polish on her nails,” Thomas-Johnson said. “They knew she was a girl.”
John Whitley, NTBA president, told the Daily Progress in Charlottesville that the association made its new, no-girl rule clear. And he said tournament officials didn’t make an issue with Kymora because they only saw her on the bench, even though she played and scored a few points.
Kymora—ever the team player—asked officials to disqualify her personally and allow the Cavs to play without her. Her request was denied.
“I wanted my team to be able to make the championships, to be able to play,” she tells Dvorak.
She also says that her teammates were indignant on her behalf: “They were nice and supportive,” she says. “They were all, like, ‘It’s not your fault!’”
The team—in support of Kymora and in protest of their disqualification—donned pink jerseys and stood on the sidelines of the game that they were originally scheduled to play in.
“The kids were behaving better than the adults in this case,” Kymora’s mother says.
“I can’t believe this is 2015, and my daughter isn’t allowed to play with boys,” Thomas-Johnson adds. “What message does this send to other girls? What message does it send to boys?”
The message from the NTBA is unfortunately very clear.
“We have no problem with the girls sitting on the bench,” Whitley says. “We don’t care who sits on the bench with the teams, that goes for anybody … to sit on the bench.”
You hear that, girls? You’re more than allowed to quietly watch basketball from the sidelines, but don’t you dare try to play.
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