When Bureaucrats Do Something Shameful, They Always Claim It Is Their Duty
When the Rules Run Up Against Faith Prep Athlete Wearing Muslim Clothing Disqualified From Track Meet
By Alan Goldenbach Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, January 16, 2008; A01
Juashaunna Kelly, a Theodore Roosevelt High School senior who has the fastest mile and two-mile times of any girls' runner in the District this winter, was disqualified from Saturday's Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules.
Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for the past three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt's cross-country and track teams: a custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard that covers her head, arms, torso and legs. On top of the unitard, Kelly wore the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.
The outfit allows her to compete while complying with her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands.
. . . Meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly's uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event, by not being "a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches."Rogers then told Kelly she was disqualified. Kelly dropped to her knees and began sobbing.
. . . "Every sport has uniform rules. It has nothing to do with religious discrimination," Rogers said.
. . . Kelly, whose 1,600 time of 5 minutes 17.49 seconds and 3,200 time of 12:00.81 are the fastest of any District girl, was hoping to run a time fast enough at the Montgomery Invitational to qualify for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 8-9. Bowden said Roosevelt has no other meets scheduled that would allow her to qualify for the event, which attracts dozens of college recruiters.
Martinets have been with us ever since there have been rules and forms to which they can demand exact conformity. Meet Director Tom Rogers is a martinet. They all have one thing in common. They are small men, exhibiting the inflated ego of the small man when he is in charge.
There are so many ways this fools dilemma might have been easily solved, that they are beyond listing. In a time when real issues of drug abuse and cheating assail amateur and professional sports, the need for a Tom Rogers embarrassing and disqualifying a young woman athlete for no more reason than a uniform-code variation seems beyond the pale.
There was a time when District sports officials were interested in encouraging and promoting sportsmanship and sports excellence. Apparently Tom Rogers' ambitions in the National Federation of State High School Associations outrun his allegiance to the District he represents and the top girl runner in that District.
Even if his egotism costs her a college scholarship.
It seems Juashaunna Kelly has finally been outrun--not in competition, but by a petty bureaucrat who ought to be taken out of the race.