A group of 10- and 11-year-old Virginia basketball players learned a very important lesson last week, but it's probably not the one their parents wanted them to learn. The U-11 Charlottesville Cavaliers were on a five-game winning streak when their ride at the National Travel Basketball Association (NBTA) Tournament was abruptly cut short. The team was disqualified for having a girl on their team. Yup, you read that right — for having a girl on their team.
Kymora Johnson has played on the Cavs team for three years. She's played in hundreds of tournaments — including two NBTA tournaments — in that time. She's presented her birth certificate, her government-issued ID, and her head full of beautiful curls (and a pink bow) when she checks in for those tournaments. And yet, it was only when the team advanced to the semifinals that they were told they couldn't have a girl on their team, according to Cavs' coach Joe Mallory.
"I said, 'You checked us in. We went through the whole process,'" Mallory says he told NTBA president John Whitley after he was informed that the team was disqualified. "They already knew that she was a female from the check-in."
"They go through an interview process with the staff of the NTBA and they ask them questions. She had on a pink bow and had her hair down. They knew she was a girl," he added
The NTBA holds both girls' and boys' national championship tournaments and according to Whitley, they do not allow mixed-gender teams to compete at the national level. He says the team was informed of the rule, but they weren't disqualified earlier, because officials only saw Kymora sitting on the bench, they didn't see her on the court.
Kymora's mom, Jessica Thomas-Johnson, says they were not informed of the new rules.
"I can't believe this is 2015, and my daughter isn't allowed to play with boys," Thomas-Johnson told the Washington Post. "What message does this send to other girls? What message does it send to boys?"
The message was heard loud and clear and the boys on the team protested, silently, by wearing all-pink uniforms the next day. Their parents and other members of the community are protesting a bit more loudly, starting a hashtag #EqualityForKymora that is quickly gaining steam.
So your macho sons can't handle being dunked on by an 11 year girl? #EqualityForKymora— Peep the Technique (@aim2xl) August 5, 2015
Sure way to prevent a bunch of boys from ever growing into men; kick a girl out of a tourney for competing against them #EqualityForKymora— Nate Smith (@NCWS_TC) August 4, 2015
Rules are rules, but U can't enforce rules arbitrarily! Enforcing the no girls rule only AFTER the team wins is wrong! #EqualityForKymora— History_Fan (@HistoryFan1804) August 4, 2015
It's hard to believe that in this day and age we are telling girls they have to play on separate teams.