TAMPA - Briana Canty doesn't regret standing up for her religion. But last weekend her convictions temporarily sidelined her hoop dreams. Briana, a sixth-grade student at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, is Muslim. As a sign of her faith, she wears a hijab, a head covering worn by many Islamic women after reaching puberty. Last Friday, at an Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournament in Orlando, Briana had to choose between her faith and her passion for basketball. Tournament officials told her to remove her hijab or sit on the bench. For Briana, 12, the decision to sit out was easy.
"It's my religion, and I'd rather follow my religion than to break it to play basketball," Briana said Monday, reflecting on the weekend's events. "I was sort of disappointed, but I was still cheering on the team." She went to Orlando to play forward for the Tampa Extremes, a local AAU girls' basketball team. ( Briana played in the team's first game Friday afternoon without incident. But she sat on the bench for much of the day's second game after officials cited NCAA rules prohibiting players from wearing head coverings and jewelry during games. Her mother, Carla Canty, was outraged.
Canty said she couldn't believe this was happening in America in 2005. After her initial attempts to negotiate with tournament officials were unsuccessful, Canty called the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa. The group intervened on Briana's behalf. (MORE)