Girl Football Player Sits for Team's Sake

Mina Johnson (The Tidewater News)

Females who play tackle football against males are rare and usually found at a particular position: kicker. That keeps them from virtually all contact, but it doesn't ensure their acceptance or safety, as evidenced by the ordeal of Katia Hnida, who in 2003 became the first female to score in an NCAA football game.

Eighth-grader Mina Johnson plays positions that are much more physically demanding — nose tackle, guard and linebacker — for Virginia's Southampton Academy junior varsity, but she doesn't worry about acceptance from her teammates. The same, however, isn't true for North Carolina's Lasker Northeast Academy, which threatened to forfeit last week if Johnson played.

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So she decided to sit out for her team's sake. "[They] said they wouldn't come to the game and would forfeit because I am a girl," Johnson told the Tidewater News.

Maybe they were scared of the 5-foot-2, 170-pounder, who starts on defense and recorded four sacks in a game on Sept. 22. Maybe they knew what was coming: a 60-0 beatdown. Maybe they were being sticklers for their North Carolina conference rules, which prohibit participation by boys in girls' sports and vice versa.

But the rules shouldn't have applied because Southampton isn't in that conference. Northeast should have suited up and played against Johnson and treated her like any other nose tackle, guard or linebacker. That's what female football players want, and that's what Johnson earned based on hustle and hard work. "She really does deserve to play," Coach Brian Parker said.

The concept of girls versus boys in football dates to at least 1939. The issue isn't as touchy as girls versus boys in wrestling, which has led to defaults at state championships. And it's not as outlandish as boys playing on girls' field hockey teams, a growing and disturbing trend.

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If a male wrestler contends that his conscience and religious faith won't let him wrestle a female, we can respect that decision. But an entire football team declining to play because a girl is on the opposite side? Or a bunch of dudes running around in kilts dominating girls in field hockey? That's weak and weak.

Anyone who suggests that's a vote for reverse discrimination doesn't know the difference between "equal" and "fair."

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