A North Carolina high school softball player was forced to cut her hair beads during a game last month, sparking outrage.
Nicole Pyles, who is black, was playing for Hillside High School in Durham when told she couldn’t play with the pearls in her hair. She asked her teammates to cut the beads from her hair instead of sitting on the bench for the game, according to USA Today.
The 16-year-old recounted the incident in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer on Wednesday.
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“It was humiliating. Why do I have to get away from myself just to play this game where we are doing well? I’m embarrassed because you pick me up in front of all these people for no reason, ”Pyles told the newspaper.
According to The News & Observer, the incident sparked an investigation by Durham Public Schools into the so-called “culturally biased” rules of high school athletics in North Carolina. State rules prohibit players from wearing plastic visors, bandanas, and hair beads. The newspaper reported that the home plate umpire was black and the goal umpire was white.
Pyles said she played games with the hair beads before the fuss.
“I was upset. He had seen me play several times, ”she said of the base umpire. “If that was such an important rule, why wasn’t it applied the first time you spoke to me or saw me come on the pitch or off the pitch or whatever? or else?
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North Carolina High School Athletic Association commissioner Que Tucker told WRAL-TV the bead rule was nothing new.
“This is not a new rule, and when the violation was found by a referee, the correct determination of illegal equipment was verified,” Tucker said.
Pyles told The News & Observer that she believes the hair bead rule discriminates against black athletes.
“Ask yourself, who else is wearing pearls? Who else wears things that hang from braids in your hair? Only black girls, ”she said.
Tucker told WRAL-TV that some of the blame should be on the coaches.
“We sympathize with the student athlete and his experience,” Tucker said. “It’s really unfortunate, because we think this situation should never have happened. The hope of the NCHSAA is that coaches know the rules of the game and make sure their players are aware of them as well before participating in any athletic competition. “
Durham Public Schools said in a statement they support Pyles and believe the rule should be changed.
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“The DPS supports our student-athletes and their right to self-expression in a way that is culturally appropriate, compatible with safety in training and in competition,” the school system said in a statement on Facebook. . “We support our student, Nicole Pyles, and believe this rule should be changed. “