A freshman at a Tennessee high school was disqualified from a volleyball match for wearing a hijab earlier this month.
CNN reports that Najah Aqeel, a 14-year-old student athlete at Valor Collegiate Prep in Nashville, was removed from play because she was wearing a headscarf on September 15. She was in the middle of warming up when a referee informed her that she would not be allowed to play.
The referee used a casebook rule that requires hijab-wearing athletes to obtain prior authorization from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Aqeel, who didn’t receive authorization says she didn’t have any problems wearing it in previous matches.
She decided not to play when faced with the choice, based on family religious reasons. “I was angry, sad and also shocked just because I had never heard of the rule before that,” Aqeel said to CNN. “The rule has no business being in the casebook. It singles out hijabs. I don’t see why I need approval to wear my hijab when it is a part of my religion.”
Karissa Niehoff, the executive director for the National Federation of State High School Associations, provided an apology statement to CNN. "We are heartbroken and deeply sorry that the young lady was disqualified from the match for wearing the hijab," Niehoff said. She is in charge of the body that writes the rules for many high school sports in the country.
"More common sense should have been demonstrated by the adults,” she continued. “The correct approach the referee should have taken is to have allowed the young lady to play and point out after the game that next time she needs to submit a letter."
The school also issued an apology and explanation through it's Instagram page without directly naming Aqeel calling the rule, "antiquated" and "oppressive."
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