Jewish Journal

Muslim piety and race policy collide *

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 25, 2008 | 12:20 pm

Juashaunna Kelly, a Theodore Roosevelt High School senior who has the fastest mile and two-mile times of any girls’ runner in the District this winter, was disqualified from Saturday’s Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules.

Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for the past three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt’s cross-country and track teams: a custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard that covers her head, arms, torso and legs. On top of the unitard, Kelly wore the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.

The outfit allows her to compete while complying with her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands.

As one of the other heats was held, two meet officials signaled to Kelly and asked her about her uniform. Meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly’s uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event, by not being “a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches.”

Rogers then told Kelly she was disqualified. Kelly dropped to her knees and began sobbing.

This story from last week’s Washington Post reminds me of those stories we see every now and then about a Christian teen who won’t spell on Sunday or a baseball superstar who won’t play on Yom Kippur (or Walter Sobchak who doesn’t roll on Shabbos).

But this, plainly, is ridiculous. Kelly did not make a conscious decision to sit out a specific game that conflicted with, say, Eid al-Adha. Still, she was disqualified because of a conflict between her religious beliefs and cultural practices and a silly set of rules likely in place to keep high school races looking more like the NFL and less like the NBA.

For a story about how a Muslim football player makes it through the daytime fasting of Ramadan, check out this story I wrote a few years ago for The Sun.

*Check the comments for a little discussion about how I got this story wrong.

She was disqualified because the unitard was multi-colored instead of one color, not because she is Muslim and not because she wore a unitard. It should have been one color

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