Sports + Religion + Politics = Intolerance

Boys. Girls. Mixed teams. Separate teams. 

***

I have hesitated to write on a subject because I had not been sure where my stance was. Part of my hesitancy is that there will be those who are vehemently opposed to my stance. But seeing as how I am “just” a blogger, my opinion should not matter to the subjects involved. 

***

Earlier this month, a high school sports story out of Arizona caught national attention, although I’m not completely sure why. A girl playing on a baseball team at a charter school prompted another school to forfeit the state championship games because it was against their beliefs (policies). The names are not important to the story but the full article can be read at azcentral.com here.

***

I have a daughter who attended private school during her high school years. She was a great soccer player, having played on a premier-level club team since fifth grade by the time she was a freshman at the high school. There were no girls’ soccer teams at the school. Her main option, which many before her had chosen, was to play at the regular public school she would have attended. That was a choice she decided wasn’t for her. Instead, she spoke with the athletic director and coach during her eighth grade year and, in essence, petitioned to be on the boys’ soccer team. Never before had a girl played on a boys’ soccer team at the school. But my daughter would be the first. She wouldn’t be the first girl to be on a boys’ team in the league but it was a first for the school. 

If I recall, there may have been a coach or two with concerns. It’s understandable. It was something different…out of the norm. Nobody ever forfeited during her playing time there. Any coach who may have threatened it, I never heard about it. 

Would it have made me mad? At the time, probably. Would I have gotten over it? Yes. Would my daughter? Yes. But it would have provided a source of conversation to explain differing points of view and how best to deal with it. 

***

In the case of the two Arizona charter schools, the understanding is that the girl was not part of the team before the season began. The school opposed to playing against females had “asked” the other schools ahead of time. It wasn’t until the two schools faced each other that the girl’s position on the team came to be known. 

Red flag. 

Knowing that one school has a policy against playing against females, shouldn’t the girl’s school have made it known right when she joined the team? Something to think about.

During the two season games, the girl was sat down by her school out of respect to their opponent’s beliefs. Noble gesture.  

Red flag. 

If she truly was a part of the team at that point, she should have played. Why sit her? Respecting another’s beliefs is, as I said, a noble gesture. But why do it during the season and not for the championship? Did the school suddenly lose respect for the opponent? Or was it because the championship was on the line?

***

The public outcry was not surprising. Many media outlets jumped all over the story with most siding with the girl’s team. Grantland.com “And A Girl Shall Terrify Them“. Craveonline.com “Sexist Arizona Private School Forfeits Championship“. One website said “religion destroyed” the girl’s chance to play in the championship. Another called it a 19th century sports issue. Even the football coach at the girl’s school, who happens to be female, said she “respects” the other school’s belief but called it an 18th century mindset. 

A simple belief of one, blasted by the public because it doesn’t “fit” their realm of thinking. Many took a sport issue and turned it into their political soapbox. Or their anti-religion soapbox. Something out of the ordinary, outside the norm of the general population. 

***

Upon closer look of the school’s behavior code, number three on the list: 

If an action causes a problem for anybody, we will do something.

They chose to do something the first two baseball games. But when it came time for the championship game, despite it being a problem for the other school, they chose to do something about their problem. They chose to play her at the game. Admirable, considering they knew full well the consternation it would bring to their opponent.

Was it fair? There’s the question that everyone has tried to answer. Fairness. No, it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair for them to play her after having her sit the previous two games. It wasn’t fair for them not to notify the school that they had a girl playing when she joined the team. 

According to the same behavior code, the school acknowledges that:

 “…some of the restrictions and choices we have made could be different and still be effective. However, we have made these choices and require that students abide by our subordinate rules to allow for the creation of order for the benefit of all.”

Hmm. “Could be different and still be effective.” Sounds like something the “other” school would say.

Behavior policy, continued: 

“…students are young adults in the making who will learn
civil, polite and respectful conduct by the examples of their teachers, adults, and student
leaders as well.”

Interesting, isn’t it. 

I’m sure there are choices and policies that the school has made that some in the general population wouldn’t agree with. But yet, it is only when it comes to a girl playing on a boys’ team, that the world pays attention. Why not pay attention to their dress code? No skirts above the knee. No strapless dresses. Where’s the world outcry about freedom then?

***

My thoughts: This story was overblown. Why media felt it was so important to make this a worldwide story is beyond me. Again, if that happened to my daughter, I would have been disappointed. But it is a life-teaching moment. Adversity will come in life. Others will disagree with your beliefs in life. People will make choices that you don’t agree with. But these are lessons learned. 

But no, the media immediately condemned the other school. Condemned them for having ‘archaic’ beliefs; beliefs that don’t apply to the 21st century, according to them. The media made it a political story with some of the angles they wrote from, like mentioned above. 

One perspective, a sports perspective, I heard caused me to step back and look at what I truly believed. My initial reaction to the story (aside from knowing it would be an explosive story) was disbelief that a team would do that. I thought it was ridiculous. This could have been “my” daughter. 

However, a local sportswriter brought it into the 21st century for me when he talked about Brigham Young University (BYU). Talking on a local radio show, he brought up BYU and their decision to not play sports on Sundays. It’s part of their religious beliefs: Keep the Sabbath holy. Accommodations have been made by other NCAA schools and tournaments to schedule accordingly around BYU’s requirements. Right or wrong, it’s accepted. Never mind the fact that many sports are played on Sundays at the professional level, BYU gets a pass, so to speak. 

Why? Because they’re a good “sports” school, who can bring in money (attendance, ratings) but that’s a story for a different day. But their beliefs don’t “fit” with the majority of Americans or rather, American sports fans. It could be classified as 18th or 19th century beliefs by some couldn’t it? 

It could. But, they’re accepted despite their beliefs. 

Why not the Arizona school that forfeited the championship? Again, I do not agree with their beliefs but they are their beliefs. The school did what they could ahead of time to have the facts before the season started. Facts changed but nobody informed them until circumstances dictated it. The choices made by the girl’s school set the precedent for the future encounter in the championship game. But the girl’s school had a change of heart thereby forcing the other school’s hand to forfeit. 

Do I agree? No. Not with either school. Does it matter? No.

But did they deserve to get blasted for forfeiting? Most definitely not.  

***

CadChica Sports

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