Another day, another person who has an issue with a black child’s hair.
A youth basketball referee in Chesapeake, Va., has been barred from reffing future games in the city after making negative comments about a young black player’s hair.
As local news team WAVY reports, the unnamed but veteran referee singled out the 10-year-old player during a girls’ basketball game this weekend, approaching her team’s coach to express concern about the player’s braided hairstyle, which had multicolored hair woven in. The referee (wrongly) deemed it against the rules.
The coach happened to be the girl’s mother, Erica Guerrier.
“He asked to speak to me and then he mentioned that one of the players when she goes to the next level, she is going to have to do something about her hair,” Guerrier told WAVY.
Furthering the humiliation, Guerrier’s daughter was then called over and subjected to scrutiny as the adults debated whether her hair violated any court rules.
“The Chesapeake official came and they had my daughter come over and he pointed to, I guess the point where her natural hair meets the hair that was braided in, and said he didn’t know what that was, and I said that’s her natural hair,” said Guerrier, who also wears braids and expressed her frustration. “Just to getting to the bottom of what are you talking about? There is no such rule, so why are you bringing this up in front of this girl, that her only love is just to play basketball?”
Guerrier said the official continued to tell her she would “have to do something” about her daughter’s hair as the girl, an avid player, entered upper school leagues. However, according to the Virginia High School League Handbook and Policy Manual’s current rules, while certain hair accessories are prohibited, braids and hair weaves are not. In fact, followers of NCAA women’s basketball—or the WNBA—are very familiar with seeing styles like these on the court, as they are a practical, yet stylish solution for many black women in sports.
In response to a complaint filed by Guerrier, Virginia High School League executive director Billy Haun told WAVY that a referee is allowed to use his or her discretion to remove players from the court if there is a safety concern and that the league’s rules have left that open to interpretation. However, Haun took issue with the referee’s handling of this situation; specifically, the public nature of the rebuke.
“If there were concerns about that young lady’s hair, that’s a conversation you have with a coach and with a player,” Haun said. “[A]nd in this case, as young as this player was, you have the conversation with the parent before the game starts, but not during the game. Somewhere private. That’s not something you do on the floor, during the game, before the game or after the game.”
Guerrier says she’d just like an apology, but as of press time, no comment had been given by the referee. However, Rick Ennis, commissioner of Hampton Roads Basketball Association, which employs the referee in question, told WAVY the incident is under investigation and being “taken very seriously.” Ennis also confirmed the referee will no longer be working games in Chesapeake.