Nine-year-old Aubrey Zvovushe-Ramos was prevented from joining her teammates to play a soccer match because of her Black hairstyle
Allure narrated that: When a nine-year-old girl is headed to the soccer field, the only thing she’s probably thinking about is trying to score the most brag-worthy goal. What she’s not thinking about is getting kicked out of the game because she’s wearing a Black hairstyle. But that’s what happened to Aubrey Zvovushe-Ramos, a young African-American girl, who was ejected from an American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) game in Monroe, Connecticut after showing up with beaded braids.
ThinkProgress mentioned that: Nine-year-old Aubrey Zvovushe-Ramos has played in the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) for the past six years and in most of her games she has worn the same Black hairstyle: small braids over to one side with beads at the end.
9-year-old black girl banned from soccer game because of beaded hairstyle: https://t.co/h17dyFBKKe
— Jesse Washington (@jessewashington) October 14, 2016
Until last weekend, that has never been a problem. But on Saturday, when Aubrey lined up with her Sapphires teammates in Monroe, Connecticut at the start of the game, the referee told her she wasn’t allowed to play in that game unless she took the beads out instantly.
“I felt she was singled out,” Aubrey’s mother, Amy Zvovushe-Ramos, told ThinkProgress. “She’s the only African American on the team. We go to the salon for an hour and a half — it’s not as simple as ‘pull the beads out.’”
Despite the initial controversy, Amy offered to compromise by tying Aubrey’s braids up tightly with a Scrunchie so they wouldn’t flap around as much. But that wasn’t satisfactory for the referee, and Aubrey remained on the bench the entire game, cheering on her teammates.
Allure adds that: So where was this ref coming from? According to AYSO rules, “Metal and plastic hair clips are not allowed on the field for practice or during a game. Players with long hair may wish to wear soft hair ties such as ‘Scrunchies.’ The referee shall decide if an article of clothing is unsafe.” So while beads aren’t mentioned specifically, the enforcement of hair guidelines is open to the interpretation of individual referees.
— EVO (@TEK_OG) October 13, 2016
ABC News gave the following information on the matter: Zvovushe-Ramos said she tried to contact a regional representative from the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) from the game to no avail. She spent the next few days trying to reach people at the regional and national level with no resolution. On Tuesday, she took to Facebook.
AYSO does have a rule about wearing jewelry during games. Aubrey’s mom said it’s a rule the nine-year-old knows well. She goes to great lengths “not to do anything wrong. She’s a straight-edge girl,” her mom added nothing that she takes off her jewelry before every game.
ThinkProgress mentioned that: “All I wanted was an apology and for them to admit that they handled it incorrectly,” she said.
On Tuesday Amy did hear back from the regional AYSO office, which claimed it had reviewed the policy and confirmed that beads are considered jewelry and are not allowed to be worn in games. However, when Amy and her husband pressed them on where that rule was located in the handbook, they admitted in emails reviewed by ThinkProgress that while it is “not specified” in the rules and regulations, there was “no question” in the national office that hair beads are considered jewelry.
ABC News relayed the following information: “AYSO clearly dropped the ball by not specifying ‘hair jewelry’ in the rules handbook and leaving it subjective to the refs,” Zvovushe-Ramos told ABC News.
“It also raises the question ‘How many young Caucasian children wear hair jewelry?’ It’s inherently discriminatory to create a rule like this that would target predominantly African American hair styles,” she said. “Now without any form of remorse from AYSO, if I do take the beads out so she can play, in the eyes of a 9-year-old it looks like she was in the wrong.”
Zvovushe-Ramos said she hadn’t decided if she would remove the beads for Aubrey’s Friday practice or weekend game.
AYSO National Director Mike Hoyer told ABC News that player safety is the primary concern of the organization and that it is subjective. While the organization does not feel the referee did anything wrong, Hoyer said they did feel bad about how Aubrey was made to feel and had sent a letter of apology for that to the family. Hoyer also said the coach would apologize to Aubrey at Friday’s practice.
The organization is staffed largely by volunteers, he said, and this incident made it clear more communication needs to take place at the local level. He denies this is a cultural sensitivity issue in the organization and said this is all about player safety and communication.
Going forward, he said, “the rules [about jewelry] will be communicated and enforced from the early days of play,” in hopes, he said, that this kind of misunderstanding never happens again. “A medical alert bracelet is the only exception to the no jewelry rule. These conversations need to happen between the coaches, parents, the people who know each other and have been playing together for years.”
American youth soccer has evolved as a fixture of the suburbs, where economically advantaged families typically reside and where competitive team fees can run in the thousands of dollars annually. A 2014 University of Florida study found that overall sports participation rates for white children exceed that of every other ethnic group in America. Researchers and cultural critics agree: The inequities in youth sports revolve around money, and soccer is one of the least equitable. As Doug Andreassen, chairman of U.S. Soccer’s diversity task force, told the Guardian in June: “The system is not working for the underserved community. It’s working for the white kids.”
Aubrey has a younger sister in kindergarten who also loves soccer and frequently wears beads in her hair during games, and since Saturday, Amy has been working hard to get answers for herself and her two daughters.
“It’s rough for [Aubrey], she’s being strong but it was definitely a difficult weekend,” Amy said. “On Saturday night she couldn’t sleep. She still wants to play soccer, but I don’t know what to do moving forward.”
Black hairstyles have recently become one of many controversial issues in terms of race. They also make an integral part of African-American culture and are a part of the unique Black identity. That’s why the current issue is not about changing the rules or endangering the girl’s fellow-to players. Aubrey’s hair just should have been taken into account beforehand, as she’s no worse than any other players.