Kymora Johnson has been playing with the Charlottesville Cavaliers under-11 team since she was 6 years old.
Despite that fact, the entire Virginia basketball team was disqualified Saturday from the National Travel Basketball Association’s national championship tournament because Kymora is, obviously, a girl.
“She’s played in hundreds of tournaments and two prior NTBA national championship tournaments on this team,” the 10-year-old’s mother, Jessica Thomas-Johnson, told Yahoo Parenting.
The team was performing well at the tournament being held in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; however, after winning its fifth game, the team was told that it was banned from further play because it had broken the rules.
“About 15 minutes after the game ended, our coach was pulled aside,” Thomas-Johnson said. “[He came back and told us] that we were disqualified and couldn’t proceed because we have a girl on the team.”
According to Kymora’s mother, NTBA President John Whitley said that someone had sent the association a photo of Kymora in the tournament and complained.
According to Yahoo Parenting, NTBA regulations do allow a girl to play on a boys team for certain tournaments with a waiver. However, the exception is not made for the national championship tournament because there is a tournament for both boys and girls teams.
The NTBA president acknowledged that the rule barring girls from playing in the boys national championship tournament is new. Thomas-Johnson says she was never told about the amendment in the rules.
“Even if it was buried in the rules and we missed it, they accepted her at check-in with her spiral curly hair [worn] down, hot-pink nail polish, birth certificate and DMV-issued ID,” Thomas-Johnson said.
The NTBA insists that the head coach was told that girls were not allowed to play on the boys team for the national championship.
“Unfortunately, the coach chose to play this girl anyway, and therefore, by our rules and policies, the team was dismissed from the tournament because he played with an ineligible player,” the organization told Yahoo Parenting.
Kymora reportedly offered to sit out the remaining games so that her team could continue playing, but Whitley would not allow the sacrifice. According to the news site, the team that Kymora’s team beat in its fifth game ended up winning the championship.
Kymora’s mother says there has been a lot of support since the disqualification. According to Yahoo Parenting, although the team was not able to play Sunday, team members wore their pink uniforms to the tournament and staged a silent protest.
“[The NTBA] called the police, like these 10-year-olds were such a threat,” Thomas-Johnson told the news site. “But not one parent or child has directed their anger at us. It just really solidifies the feeling of family that we already had with the organization.”
As Yahoo Parenting notes, in light of the disqualification, Kymora supporters have rallied on social media, using the hashtag #EqualityForKymora, to express their disappointment.
Read more at Yahoo Parenting.