In his “Youth Sports Heroes of the Month” blog column for April, Prof. Doug Abrams features a Colorado high school soccer team whose girls supported a Muslim teammate who was ejected by referees who ruled that her hijab (a headscarf worn by Muslim women) created “dangerous” playing conditions. In the team’s next game, every teammate wore a hijab, even though most were not Muslims. The referees permitted the game to proceed.
“I do not know the motivation of the referees who refused to permit” the Muslim girl to play, Abrams wrote, but “in matters of conscience or equality, youth leaguers banished by referees and other adults tend to be religious, ethnic or racial minorities who are perceived as ‘different’ or otherwise arouse measurable disfavor.” In earlier columns, he wrote about recent incidents in which soccer referees did not permit Sikh boys to wear head turbans, and baseball umpires threatened to eject coaches and players who spoke to one another in Spanish.
Abrams concluded that “sports provides unique opportunities for youngsters of various backgrounds to participate in mainstream national culture…. Attempts to force children to disavow their religious beliefs, or to speak a language they have not yet mastered, serve no worthwhile purpose because arbitrarily excluding children from wholesome childhood activities serves no worthwhile purpose.”