‘So embarrassed’: Student says she was forced to cut braids at softball game

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 10:14 AM EDT
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DURHAM, N.C. (WRAL) - A Black softball player in North Carolina says she felt forced to cut her hair during a game.

The high school sophomore says the umpires enforced a rule that she calls discriminatory.

Nicole Pyles and others now are pushing for change.

The Hillside High School player loves the game of softball.

“The umps came up to my coach asking about my beads, and so I was just like, well, it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll tuck, I’ll put them away.”

Nicole says it was the top of the second inning and her team was winning when the umpire noticed her knotless braids with beads, a style she says she’s worn before at games.

“I came back in to hit again,” she said. “It was brought up that there was another issue - that they couldn’t see, again they couldn’t see my number, but now it’s a ‘safety issue.’”

She says she was told she had to remove the beads in line with the National Federation of State High School Association’s policy, or she couldn’t finish the game.

“(The) team, all of my friends, were cutting out some of my beads,” Nicole said. “They snatched some of the beads out of my hair.

“I felt just so embarrassed and disrespected.”

Her dad says he contacted all parties involved immediately.

“I was deeply hurt because my child should have never, none of those girls should have had to endure that type of behavior,” Julius Pyles said.

Four months ago, Durham became one of the first cities in the state to ban discrimination based on hairstyle in the workplace.

Durham Public Schools released a statement Wednesday, saying it “supports our students’ right to free expression and opposes unreasonable or biased restrictions on black women’s hairstyles.”

Tyler Whittenberg with the Youth Justice Project said his group is among those pushing for change.

“But to extend that to the classrooms and into the field so that young girls like Nicole, and so many other student athletes and students in general, can live in their full dignity,” Whittenberg said.

District officials say they are encouraging state and national oversight bodies to reconsider their policies. They say rules like this are culturally biased.

“I want everybody else to know that you need to speak up when you’re being bullied, discriminated, any of it because that happens to a lot of people,” Nicole said. “People never want to talk about it because they feel like somebody’s going to come after them. Whether they do or they don’t, be strong in your own shoes and stand for what’s right.”

Copyright 2021 WRAL via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.