24 Jan 2008, Comments Off on Hmmm, can’t think of a precedent for that, can you?

Hmmm, can’t think of a precedent for that, can you?

Author: Helen

WASHINGTON – A high school track star has been disqualified from a meet because officials said the custom-made outfit she wears to conform to her Muslim faith violated competition rules.

Juashaunna Kelly, a senior at the District of Columbia’s Theodore Roosevelt High School, has the fastest mile and 2-mile times of any girl runner in the city this winter. She was disqualified from Saturday’s Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet.

Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt’s cross-country and track teams. The custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard covers her head, arms, torso and legs.

Oh, so I must have imagined Cathy Freeman’s winning performance in the 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Cathy Freeman wins the 400m at the Sydney olympics in 2000

H/T: Feministe.

Comments (0)

  • Ian says:

    I’d prefer to think its a petty official being especially petty rather than her being deliberately discriminated against. Or perhaps an official from one school being a smartarse with the rules in finding a way to eliminate a strong competitor. But it could just be plain old anti-muslim attitudes driving it? (Is that racism, or religion-ism, or culture-ism, or something else, given Islam is not a race?)

  • Helen says:

    I’d prefer to think its a petty official being especially petty rather than her being deliberately discriminated against.

    That argument kinda eats itself, Ian – the official wanted to find a reason to discriminate; why?

    Yes, of course this anti-Muslim behaviour is ethnocentrism rather than racism per se, you’re right. It’s still discrimination though, and works in much the same way, if you think about that “knapsack of privilege” concept I mentioned in a previous post.

  • Helen says:


    Seems logical enough, but by the same logic, a leotard should be a costume for a lion…?

  • Caroline says:

    Yeah I was wondering that. A unitard? Hmmm and then I thought maybe a leotard is for the leogs.

    O n l y i n A M E R I C A . (And I think that’s culturalism). Yeah I smell a rat, as far as some other competitors go. The official wanted to discriminate against her because his brother’s daughter is pretty quick too. Err that’s a wild guess.

  • Alison says:

    ~ the singlet-pants thing – shoulders to ankles.

    ~ the wrists to ankles thing;
    ~ the word my partner and I use when we can’t say dickhead in public (‘tard’ for short).

  • Dysthymiac says:

    Sometimes I am very much in favour of the Muslim desire for Modest Clothing, and one of those times is when having to witness female athletes doing their thing in those Very Tight Very Small SYNTHETIC underpants. WTF is that?

    The officious official in DC probably missed Freeman’s moment.
    Americans in general have no idea of anything beyond their own border.
    Unitard, leotard … his outfit would appropriately be a retard.

  • fran says:

    You’ll notice that the sleeves on Cathy Freeman’s unitard are both the same color. Before you go slandering the officials, get a handle on the rule.
    “Rule 4-3-1-d of the NFHS Track and Field and Cross Country Rules Book states that ‘Any visible garment(s) worn underneath the uniform top or bottom shall be a single, solid color and unadorned except for 1) a single school name or insignia no more than 2¼ square inches with no dimension more than 2¼ inches and 2) a single, visible manufacturer’s logo as per NFHS rules.’
    I hope I hear a collective, “Ohhhhhh ….. !”
    Here’s an news article for further elaboration:
    Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008 GAZETTE.NET
    Officials: Religion not issue in runner’s exclusion
    Incident involving the color of a Muslim girl’s uniform ‘has
    been blown out of proportion,’ District administrator says
    by Chay Rao and Stephanie Siegel | Staff Writers
    Montgomery school officials recently came under fire for being insensitive and even racist after a Muslim girl was told she could not participate in a county track meet because of her uniform, which covered her head, arms and legs in accordance with Muslim customs.
    But according to Montgomery County Public Schools officials, religion had nothing to do with the ruling made by an event referee and MCPS employees had no authority to overrule the decision.
    ‘‘This has been a colossal misunderstanding,” said Kate Harrison, MCPS spokeswoman.
    Juashuanna Kelly, a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, was told she could not run in the Jan. 12 Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet because the garment she wore did not conform to color standards. Kelly, who is Muslim, was wearing a half-blue and half-orange unitard and head covering under her track uniform.
    National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Indoor Track and Field guidelines state that a runner must wear a single-colored tracksuit under a school jersey — a rule to help identify runners at the finish line in case of close finishes.
    ‘‘The uniform rules are clearly stated within the rule book. … If she had worn a solid color, she would have been fine. It was something that could have been avoided early on,” said Becky Oakes, assistant director of NFHS. ‘‘No one wants the athlete DQ’d.”
    Kelly, who had worn the special uniform to other meets, including the Montgomery Invitational last year, had been granted a waiver for meets in Washington, according to Allen Chin, director of athletics for District of Columbia Public Schools.
    ‘‘I feel sorry for the young girl, but frankly, this is something that has been blown out of proportion,” Chin said.
    After being told she could participate if she wore a single-colored, long-sleeved T-shirt over the unitard, Kelly and her coach, Tony Bowden, decided to withdraw from the race, Harrison said. Kelly was not disqualified, according to Harrison.
    ‘‘Religion had no factor in the decision over whether she could participate,” she said.
    Bo Meyers, a hired official who is qualified as a ‘‘master referee” by USA Track and Field, the national governing body for track and field sports, made the ruling, Harrison said.
    Oakes said Kelly had time to make a change if she wanted. ‘‘Everything was handled properly by meet officials according to the rules,” she said.
    However, for many in the Muslim community, barring Kelly from the meet because of the colors of her unitard was the wrong decision.
    ‘‘The people who made this decision were very insensitive,” said Rashid Makhdoom, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Muslim Council, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Muslim interests and involvement in the county. ‘‘I think there should be some sensitivity training. There is some feeling that there might be some kind of race [discrimination] involved.”
    Harrison said training to make employees aware of cultural and religious differences is already required for school system employees; however, Meyers and other athletic officials are not considered MCPS employees.
    One MCPS employee who was criticized for the decision was meet director Tom Rogers, a track and field coach at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. Rogers was blamed by some for upholding the decision not to let Kelly participate.
    ‘‘There has been an enormous barrage of angry and even threatening letters,” Harrison said.
    But it was never Rogers’ role to say who was allowed to compete, she said.
    ‘‘His role was as an administrator, to take care of the business aspects,” Harrison said.
    Rogers was in charge of making sure the track and equipment was ready, sending out the invitations and hiring the officials, among other duties.
    Makhdoom believes an exception could have been made for Kelly.
    ‘‘She has sacrificed quite a bit of her religious beliefs and compromised to participate,” he said.
    ‘‘Our religious beliefs are such that women, especially, are not supposed to show the body. I would call it a compromise,” he said of the garment Kelly wore. While it covered her skin, it was still tighter than clothes traditional Muslim women wear, he said.
    The perception that Kelly was singled out for her religion is damaging for community relations between Muslims and others, he said.
    In years past, several runners have competed in the Montgomery Invitational wearing head coverings, including Shakira Raheem, who competed for Albert Einstein High School before graduating in 2007, and Fatima Abbas, who ran for Rogers at Walter Johnson before graduating in 1999.
    ‘‘The head covering itself was never a violation,” Rogers said. ‘‘Fatima ran with a hejab for four years, and she never had any problems.”
    He said there was another athlete, a boys hurdler from James Robinson High School in Virginia, who was not allowed to compete at the Montgomery Invitational this month because of uniform violations similar to Kelly’s.
    ‘‘The torso of [Kelly’s] undergarment was multicolored, which was the same problem that the kid from Robinson had,” Rogers said. ‘‘The implication was religious discrimination, but that was absolutely not the case. It is a very one-sided view that has been out there and that has been hurtful.”

    Maryland Community Newspapers Online

  • Helen says:

    Noted, Fran.
    I hope Juashuanna can afford to have a solid coloured unitard made. I don’t think a thing like that would be cheap and I hope the expense of conforming with these requirements doesn’t constitute the last straw that drives her out of competition.

  • fran says:

    She ran in a solid colored one before having this one made at the beginning of her junior year. She probably still has it. As a matter of fact, she ran in a meet today wearing a solid colored unitard. So no problem there.

  • David F says:

    You know what… Regardless of the motive behind this ridiculous action. There is a clear response that will nullify all argument.
    What if her entire school athletics team adopted a similar costume and attended the next meet wearing them?
    This would send a clear message to everyone involved that regardless of how the discrimination is classified (I’m sure there’s plenty of labels that would fit) it is rejected entirely by the community to which the girl belongs, and hopefully the affiliated sporting groups as well.

    It wasn’t like she was sporting some kind of jet pack to propel her into the lead. What a petty thing to do, so crazy.

  • Helen says:

    Cool, David – a direct action that’s an action of support and harms no-one.

    It wasn’t like she was sporting some kind of jet pack to propel her into the lead

    My thought exactly, although Fran has pointed out they need plain sleeves to minimise ambiguity with finishes.

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