The GHSA has released the following statement regarding the disqualification of West Forsyth High School’s John Green from the state cross country meet this past Saturday:
“First, let’s be completely clear that this disqualification had NOTHING to do with what was written on the athlete’s headband. The fact that it was of a religious nature did not enter into the decision whatsoever.
Also, despite published reports to the contrary, the athlete and his coach were informed BEFORE the start of the race that the headband in question was illegal and could not be worn during the race.
After being informed that the headband was illegal, the athlete removed the headband and the meet referee assumed he would run the race without it. However, at some point after that, the coach and the athlete made the decision to ignore the warning and the headband was put back on. Since the athlete then ran the race with apparel that had already been ruled illegal, there was no choice but to issue a disqualification.
Here is the explanation by the meet referee: “I was called to the start line by the clerk concerning the headband. It was a white headband with large black letters written on it. The coach said he could turn it inside-out and make it legal. He did so, and the writing was still very visible. The rule said the item had to be unadorned except for a logo, and this clearly was not the case. I told the coach and the athlete that he could not wear the headband during the competition. The athlete took it off – neither the coach nor the athlete were happy – and I left. When I got back to the finish area, I noticed the athlete had a white headband on. So, when I saw him come down the finish hill, I went inside the finish corral to watch him finish, and he had the same headband on. I told the timer to DQ him, I paged the coach, and told the coach of the disqualification.”
Here are the rules that came into play in making the ruling:
NFHS Rules Book, page 14, Section 4 REFEREE, Article 6. “The referee has the sole authority for ruling on infractions or irregularities not covered within the rules.” The headband was not specifically covered in the rules.
GHSA Cross Country Coaches Handbook, page 3, bullet 7 “Beanies, toboggans, ear covers are permitted if of a single color, unadorned (one logo only).” Since this rule included headwear, the referee included the headband with the other headwear. Therefore, the headband had to be unadorned.
NFHS Rules Book, page 71, top paragraph reads “For wearing of an illegal uniform, when a violation is observed and noted by a meet official, the competitor shall be required to make the uniform legal before becoming eligible for further completion, and shall be issued a warning that a subsequent violation shall result in a disqualification from the event.”