BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The first 24 games of a season were played without a problem for 16-year-old Je’Nan Hayes. But a few weeks ago, she was barred from playing a basketball game at her high school because of the headscarf she was wearing as part of her Muslim faith.
After playing through almost the entire season without an issue, for Je’Nan on March 3, getting into the game was not even an option.
“I was speechless,” says Je’Nan.
Her high school team was playing in Prince George’s County and the coaches were told the 16- year-old could not play because of her headscarf.
“We’ve never been informed of this rule,” says Je’Nan’s coach Donita Adams.
Her coach had no choice but to leave her on the bench.
“I didn’t want to look at her and explain to her why she couldn’t play,” says Adams.
“I was sad, angered, it was just a lot of emotions,” says Je’Nan.
According to state rules, Je’Nan needed documented evidence to cover her head for religious purposes and still be able to take the court pick.
“I feel like a rule like this is discriminatory,” says Je’Nan.
It is not often enforced and hadn’t been for the first 24 games of the season in Montgomery County.
CAIR Maryland is firing back, calling for changes.
“I’d like to think the court has not played a role since we have seen a rise in discrimination,” says Dr. Zainab Chaudry with CAIR.
The school athletic association said it is designed to ensure safety and competitive fairness saying, ‘there should have been no denial of participation as we are committed to working this does not happen again.’
But for Je’Nan, her family and CAIR, words are not enough.
“We want the assurance this will not happen again.”
CAIR says they believe the same rules apply nationwide for high school sports, but they do not believe they have been reviewed recently, which is something they are working toward. Maryland is pushing for more diversity training for all athletic game referees.