An Alabama youth girls’ basketball team that was told they would lose their practice facility unless they agreed to play in a boys’ league went on to win the whole thing — and yet was denied the championship trophy. Instead, the trophies were given to the boys who, to be clear, were beaten by the girls in the league final, according to the mother of one of the girls.
Jayme Mashayekh, the mother of one of the 5th-grade players on the Hoover, Ala., girls’ rec team, explained the team’s saga en route to winning the championship on her Facebook page:
“These girls have played together for 3 years for a competitive girl’s league representing Spain Park. All are 5th graders in the Hoover school system. Half way through their season they were told they could not use the Hoover gyms for their practices unless they paid to play in the Hoover rec league. They were told to stay together as a team they had to play up a level in competition and play the 5th grade boys. The girls were middle of the pack throughout the season losing several close games by 1 point. Playing the boys was a challenge they rose to meet. It made them better players and a better team.
They were told before the championship that they could play in it but if they won they wouldn’t be allowed to have the trophy. “Excuse me? What?” What did they do to get disqualified? Did they not pay their dues? Did they not play up a level in competition? Oh, it’s because they’re GIRLS?!?!
So sure enough these 5th grade girls played their hearts out, left it all on the floor and battled their male counterparts only to be told, “No, I’m sorry you don’t count.”
So, to recap, the girls’ team was told they would lose their regular practice facility unless they played in a boys’ league. The team did so, worked their asses off, won the boys’ league, and then were denied the championship, ostensibly for being girls. The male entitlement is staggering, as is the remarkable lack of awareness in the lesson this teaches both young men and women.
The lesson, it would seem, is that even when women are more qualified, work harder, and achieve more than men, they still are not as worthy. It’s a lesson too many Americans have learned too well, given the number of men who decry equity and inclusion with the old trope, “hire the most qualified person!” while refusing to consider that anyone who is not a cishet white male could ever be the most qualified for the job.
You’ll be sh0cked to learn that, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Alabama ranks last in the nation when it comes to women, earning no grade higher than a “D” in categories like employment and earnings, political participation, reproductive rights, and health and well-being.
It can be difficult to imagine where boys get the idea that women are inferior members of society until you read about what happened to the Hoover 5th grade girls’ team, and remember how young boys start getting the message of their primacy from the adults around them. What was going on in the minds of the parents of the boys’ team, who allowed their sons to accept a championship they didn’t earn?
In an update to her Feb. 28 Facebook post, Mashayekh said the City of Hoover and the Hoover Rec Center reached out about “making things right for the girls,” though there has been no update on what, exactly, making it right means. Or if anything, short of taking the championship back from the boys and giving it to the girls, who rightfully earned it, could ever make this situation right. Hoover City Administrator Allen Rice issued this statement to AL.com:
“On Wednesday, March 1st, 2023, the City of Hoover and the Hoover Parks and Recreation Board became aware of concerns about a recent youth basketball tournament. We are currently working to provide proper recognition to all the teams that were successful in that tournament. Also, we are reviewing the full extent of what occurred to ensure all future programs are handled appropriately.”
Deadspin reached out to the City of Hoover but had not received any additional information at the time of publication. We will update this story if we receive comment and/or explanation.
Sexism is taught in reinforced in American society in a myriad of ways every day, big and small. It’s long past time we realized how young we start teaching children the message that boys are always, always superior and more deserving than girls, no matter the circumstances. The Hoover girls’ 5th-grade team is owed an apology from every single adult involved in this buffoonery.
Update: After this piece went to publication, Deadspin learned of a policy that may go some of the way towards explaining what happened here. A Facebook user named Jason Jordan posted the following message on Mashayekh’s page:
“I’ve coached both boys and girls in Hoover for years and can assure everybody that they don’t discriminate against girls.
This policy has been in place for years. Hats off to this team for winning the championship. It is unfortunate they couldn’t get the trophy but it sounds like Hoover is going to make it right by honoring the girls. The same thing happened to a boys team.
Since Hoover has limited gym space and high demand for practice facilities it makes it extremely difficult to accommodate everyone. Hoovers’ policy has always been that if you want to use a Hoover gym for OTM practice then you must participate in the rec league. Most coaches want to keep their OTM team together and play them in the rec league. Since this would be an unfair advantage because most of the OTM teams are comprised of the best players, they are required to play “up” by two grade levels. In this case, the girls are in 5th grade and there is no 7th grade girls rec league so they had to play against the 5th grade boys.
In the past and I’m sure here too, the league tells the coaches well in advance that you can sit out the tournament or you can play but you will not get a trophy. In the 15 plus years I have coached, I’ve never seen a team win it all playing up, so congratulations to these girls and the coaches for winning the championship. Trophy or no trophy, they are the champions.”
This may simply be a case of a bad policy giving way to really bad optics once a girls’ team won the boys’ league tournament, though it seems clear that at least some of the girls’ parents were either unaware of the policy or strongly disagreed with it. Policy or nor policy, the message sent by not allowing the girls to claim the championship is clear.
We’ll continue to update this story as we learn more.