Je’Nan Hayes, a high schooler from Gaithersburg, Maryland, was barred from playing in a regional basketball game earlier this month because she was wearing a hijab.
According to CNN, a referee told the teen’s coach that she would not be able to play in the final without authorization from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The organization does indeed prohibit headwear during games. Exceptions can be made for head coverings that are worn for religious, cosmetic, or medical reasons — but the association’s rulebook says it must grant approval on an individual basis.
So on March 3, Hayes sat on the bench while her teammates played. NFHS spokesman Bill Reinhard told CNN that the referees had unnecessarily kept the high-schooler out of the game. “Unfortunately the officials made a strict interpretation of the National Federation of State High Schools playing rules for basketball instead of the spirit of the rule designed to ensure safety and competitive fairness,” he explained. “There should have been no denial of participation and we are committed to working with the school and the family to ensure this does not happen again.”
Hayes and her family are now collaborating with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to ask that the rulebook be changed so other Muslim teenagers are not prevented from participating in their sport of choice. The news of the emerged the same week that Nike announced its forthcoming “Pro Hijab” line of performance wear, which is being rolled out with the help of an extensive marketing campaign that includes several high-profile Muslim athletes.
For more on the tussle over Hayes’ hijab, watch the video below:
Read the full story at CNN.