6-year-old couldn’t play soccer because of ‘culturally biased’ hair rules, NC mom says

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A 6-year-old wasn’t allowed to play a recreational soccer game in Eastern North Carolina because her hair clips violated the rules, her mom said.

Da’Raille Marshmon said officials asked her daughter to remove the clips before a youth soccer game on Monday organized by the Town of Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department. Hope Mills is about 74 miles south of Raleigh.

Marshmon said the request was “degrading” and “demoralizing” for her daughter, who is Black.

“In the year of our Lord 2021, asking a little (6-year-old) girl to alter the wear of her hair due to a subjective and culturally biased ruling during the play of any sport is outdated and not the move,” she said in a Facebook post tagging the town parks department.

Maxie Dove, the assistant director at Hope Mills Parks & Recreation, sent a copy of the rules to McClatchy News on Tuesday, which state that jewelry, watches, rings, necklaces, earrings, hair beads and “headwear of any type” can’t be worn during a game.

Dove said the department has spoken with the child’s parents about the safety rules and possible alternatives.

“We feel the situation could have absolutely been handled much better by the official and have spoken with our booking agent about the situation,” he said in a statement to McClatchy News. “The officials are not employees of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department, they are independent contractors hired and scheduled by our local booking agent.”

Marshmon confirmed Dove reached out to her on Tuesday.

“He did apologize for the way things were handled,” Marshmon told McClatchy News. “When it comes to a child feeling like they are less than because of their hair type or style, no it was not enough. But as her parent, we will move on and do our part to be better informed next time so it will not ever happen again.”

‘This is America’

Marshmon said the events unfolded around 7 p.m. Monday when her daughter was on the field with the rest of her teammates. An official reportedly approached the 6-year-old and told her she had to take her hair down.

“She came over to my husband confused as in what they meant,” Marshmon said. “My husband asked what needed to be removed (and) the volunteer said her hair is a distraction.”

Marshmon said her daughter was wearing elastic ponytail holders and plastic clips at the time. Her husband asked which ones needed to be removed, but no one clarified, she said.

Instead, officials reportedly told him players can’t wear hair beads or headwear of any type. But Marshmon said her daughter’s clips aren’t headwear.

“Those hair clips are her personal appearance that she has worn her entire life,” she said.

Her daughter ultimately wasn’t allowed to play and “cried uncontrollably, questioning her physical appearance” after the incident, Marshmon said.

“The trauma and torment she suffered tonight can not be undone,” she said in the Facebook post. “Sorry baby girl, but this is America.”

Black athletes’ hair a frequent target

There have been numerous instances in recent years of discriminatory rules targeting Black athletes’ hair in North Carolina and across the U.S.

At the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, swimmers were barred from using the brand SOUL CAP — swim caps primarily made for Black swimmers — because officials said the caps don’t fit the “natural form of the head” and “caps of such size and configuration” are not necessary for Olympic swimming events, The News & Observer reported.

Black athletes were quick to point out the racial undertones associated with the decision.

In May, Nicole Pyles — a Black softball player at Hillside High School in North Carolina — had to cut out her beads to continue playing in her team’s senior night game. In an interview with The N&O, Pyles called the experience “humiliating.”

The head cheer coach at Ottowa University in Kansas resigned in January after a similar incident involving a Black cheerleader who didn’t want to remove a hair bonnet protecting her braids during practice, The Kansas City Star reported.

The 20-year-old was “worried her 30-inch long braids could hit a teammate in the face” and got kicked off the squad as a result.

Some states and local governments have taken steps to protect Black people from discrimination based on their hair. In North Carolina, Orange and Mecklenburg counties as well as the cities of Durham, Carrboro and Greensboro have added hair to their anti-discrimination ordinances.

Hair has also been added to state agencies’ racial discrimination protections, The N&O reported.

Places such as California and New Orleans have passed laws and ordinances barring discrimination based on ethnic hairstyles, also known as a CROWN Act.

CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

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