A high school student has revealed she was humiliated after she was forced to cut her hair to continue playing in a softball game.
According to Pyles, who is Black and who told Today she had worn the hairstyle for a few games during the season, during the beginning of the second inning, the umpire told her coach that her hair was making it impossible to see the number on the back of her jersey.
At first, the 16-year-old attempted to tuck her hair into the collar of her jersey, but received another complaint shortly after the first.
She then spoke to the ump directly, telling the outlet that she approached the umpire and “asked him: ‘You’ve seen me play before, so why is it an issue?’”
“And he said: ‘It’s a rule, so there’s not much I can do about it right now,’” Pyles recalled.
Rather than be barred from playing, Pyles said she returned to the dugout, where she and her teammates began to remove the beads from her hair.
In a Facebook Live video from the game, a female voice can be heard asking: “Does anyone have scissors?”
“I was upset, but I went back to the dugout. And so my team, they were confused and upset as well, but they cut some of the beads, and other ones were snatching beads out of my hair so I was able to play because I wasn’t going to let beads hold me back from playing a softball game,” she told the outlet.
Pyles also said that she believes the complaint may have been made because her team was winning at the time, but that it left her “humiliated”.
“In my head at the time was: ‘Why me, why do I have to take my beads out just because the other team is losing? Why can’t we just play a normal softball game?’” she said. “I felt humiliated, just, why?”
According to The News & Observer, the umpires were enforcing a rule outlined by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in North Carolina, which “allows players to use bobby pins, barrettes and hair clips but prohibits plastic visors, bandannas and hair beads”.
In a statement shared to the Durham Public Schools website on 12 May, the school district said that it “supports our students’ right to free expression and opposes unreasonable or biased restrictions on Black women’s hairstyles”.
Durham Public Schools also said that the schools “believe the blanket ban on hair beads is culturally biased and problematic,” and that it should be amended.
“We support our student, Nicole Pyles, and believe this rule should be amended. We frown on any rule or policy that promotes cultural insensitivity or does not reflect the ideals and principles of DPS and our employees,” the statement continued, adding that the schools will be working with the NFHS to “review their policies that on the surface seem fair but are culturally biased and inappropriate”.
“The aim is to make sure that all our athletes regardless of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation have the opportunity to compete without rules that target them based on any of these factors.”
Speaking to The News & Observer, Pyles said she hopes the rule is changed, as the incident embarrassed her, her family and her teammates.
“I want to see the rule changed, specifically the beads rule,” she said, continuing that it “embarrassed me, hurt me, hurt my family, embarrassed my teammates on their senior night in front of their families, their friends, previous Hillside students who played at Hillside years ago and graduated college.”
“I don’t feel like their first time coming back to watch a softball game they need to see me being discriminated against at a softball game, having to cut my hair just to play,” she added.
The Independent has contacted the NFHS and the North Carolina High Schools Athletics Association (NCHSAA) for comment.