*Nicole Pyles, 16, was standing near home base waiting to bat for her Durham N.C. high school softball team when one of the umpires stopped the game, approached her and made a demand. If she wanted to continue playing, she’d have to take the beads out of her hair.
Pyles wanted to keep playing, so some of her teammates started removing beads. When some wouldn’t budge, a teammate yelled, “Does anybody have scissors?” before they cut the rest of the beads.
“At this point, I feel humiliated,” Pyles told the News & Observer, adding that she could hear parents and other attendees gasping in shock as her teammates cut her braids.
Pyles told the paper that she’s not opposed to rules that prohibit hair clips and other accessories, but said the policy on hair beads should be repealed because it discriminates against Black athletes. “Ask yourself, who else wears beads?” Pyles told the News & Observer. “Who else wears things that hang off braids in your hair? Only Black girls.”
Pyles and her family are asking her school district and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to enact policies ensuring no other Black student-athlete faces similar repercussions because of their hair. But the NCHSAA sided with the umpire, citing a rule that forbids the use of plastic visors, bandannas and hair beads.
“This is not a new rule, and when the violation was noticed by an umpire, the proper determination of illegal equipment was verified,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker told WRAL.
Durham Public Schools, which does not prohibit hair beads in the classroom, condemned the “culturally biased and problematic” ban on hair beads and called for the association to revise its hair policy. “DPS supports our student-athletes and their right to self-expression in a manner befitting their culture, consistent with safety in training and competition,” the district said in a statement. “We support our student, Nicole Pyles, and believe this rule should be amended.”
Pyles is also demanding an apology from the other team’s coaches, the umpires and the NCHSAA supervisor.
“Fix the policies for the Black children so they won’t be discriminated against,” her father, Julius Pyles, who was not present at the game, told the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
Watch an interview with Pyles’ below, followed by video from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice: