WASHINGTON — This has been a good year for women in sports, from the unprecedented attention paid to the Women’s World Cup to Melissa Mayeux becoming the female to be added to Major League Baseball’s international registration list, making her eligible to be signed.
But last weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a Charlottesville, Virginia team was disqualified from a youth basketball tournament for having a girl on their team, 10-year-old Kymora Johnson.
According to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, the Charlottesville Cavaliers had not run into any friction while registering, which required each player to present a birth certificate. In fact, there was no issue until they had already won five games and were on their way to the finals, when suddenly a league rule was invoked. That rule — written just this year — forbids girls from playing with boys in national tournaments, despite allowing them to play in league games and scrimmages.
The coaches and families claim they had no knowledge of the National Travel Basketball Association change in policy, and have competed in NTBA tournaments in years past with co-ed teams.
NTBA president John Whitley explained that the reason the issue wasn’t addressed until the tournament had nearly finished was that nobody had noticed Johnson, who came off the bench and scored just a few points in limited minutes.
“We have no problem with the girls sitting on the bench,” Whitley told the Daily Progress. “We don’t care who sits on the bench with the teams.”
As to why the rule was created in the first place, Whitley claims the organization received complaints from parents, but the nature of those complaints, and why the organization took them so seriously, was not explained.
Johnson has been playing with the Cavaliers teams since she was 5 years-old, as there were no competitive, traveling team options available locally for her age range, and has competed at national tournaments like this one in past years.
Cavaliers head coach Joe Mallory says he is considering legal action against the NTBA. In addition to their disqualification, the team will not be reimbursed for the week’s worth of tournament, registration and hotel expenses.