MD: Athlete Wearing Muslim Clothing Disqualified


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. Kelly's mother, Sarah, walked down from the bleachers at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover and argued with Rogers, but left without coming to an agreement to console her daughter.

"I saw that this isn't getting anywhere, and I wanted to go see her," Sarah Kelly said.

Rogers said he made three public address announcements prior to Kelly's disqualification requesting that Roosevelt Coach Tony Bowden meet with him. Bowden said he didn't hear any announcements.

Kelly has worn the same uniform for three years without any questions, including the 800- and 1,600-meter races at last year's Montgomery Invitational, at which Rogers also was the director.

"She ran in the same exact meet last year," Sarah Kelly said. "There was nothing said. No one has ever said anything to her."

Rogers said: "We run over 2,000 athletes in this meet. Most likely an official missed her uniform [last year] and a call wasn't made."

Juashaunna Kelly, who last week was named the 2007 Gatorade girls' cross-country runner of the year in the District, had her uniform custom-made by a tailor in Apple Valley, Calif., two years ago.

"It's not special," Kelly said. "It doesn't make me perform better."

She said she has been questioned about her uniform before every meet in which she has competed, including Saturday's.

"It was the same as the other meets: They pulled me aside and asked me why am I wearing this," she said. "I said, 'It's because I'm a Muslim.’” (MORE)


 


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