Alabama Town Says Girls’ Basketball Team Being Denied Trophy Was a ‘Misunderstanding’

A fifth grade girls’ team beat out the boys in a recreational league tournament in Hoover, Alabama, but the trophy was still given to a losing boys’ team.

Alabama Town Says Girls’ Basketball Team Being Denied Trophy Was a ‘Misunderstanding’
Photo:Getty Images (Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the internet became enraged over the outcome of a recreational youth basketball tournament in Alabama after a girls’ team was forced to play against a boys’ team and ended up winning the entire league—only for the boys to still be given the trophy. On Monday, the city of Hoover, Alabama, attempted to correct the record, explaining that the girls’ team was actually in a separate, “elite” league, and that the whole thing was a “misunderstanding.”

The uproar began after one of the girls’ parents posted on Facebook about what had happened, Deadspin reported over the weekend. The mom, Jayme Mashayekh, wrote that the Alabama youth girls’ basketball team, who’d been playing together for three years, was told they would lose their practice facility unless they agreed to play in a boys’ league. Hoover apparently has limited gym space, and in order to use the practice facilities, teams must participate in the recreational league—a policy that seemingly governs teams of all genders.

After the girls won the whole tournament, beating the boys’ team, the championship trophies were still given to the boys. “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,’” Mashayekh wrote in her post.

But Hoover’s City Administrator Allan Rice told Insider that the fury over the trophy “may have just been a misunderstanding,” indicating that the team’s coach knew from the start of the tournament that the girl’s team was not playing for the trophy.

The championship-winning girls were part of an “elite” team, made up of highly skilled players, city officials told Insider. The remainder of the boys’ teams competing in the tournament were part of the “regular” league, where teams are not packed with high-level players. Rice added that “elite” teams typically don’t play in recreational league tournaments, but can opt in to “get additional games and for practice.” If they did so, Rice added, they would not be in contention for the trophy given that they were a technically better team.

“This has been in place for probably 15 years and it’s been applied regardless of gender,” Rice said. “There also was a boys team that was affected the same exact way this year, with one of our city council member’s sons on the team.”

City officials said that both the boys and girls elite teams that won the championships have been invited to a city council meeting on Monday to be recognized for their wins. Mashayekh also updated her post, writing, “The City of Hoover and the Hoover Rec Center have reached out to make things right for the girls. Thank you for all your support and hopefully this will be a step in the right direction for more/better access to facilities and opportunities for our [sic] females athletes.”

Though what actually transpired, according to the city’s account, may not have been outwardly sexist, the reaction to the debacle says a lot about where girls’ sports stand at the moment. At youth, collegiate, and professional levels, girls and women are denied equal opportunities more often than not. Trans girls are often accused of cheating or taking away opportunities by competing against cis girls. Nearly every year, collegiate women’s basketball players have far less high-end training equipment available to them than their male counterparts. And in the WNBA, players make significantly less than NBA players, which forces them to play overseas in the offseason, raising a number of health and safety concerns (see: Brittney Griner).

What took place in Hoover appears to be not so much a question of blatant sexism, but of facility access. Still, if the girls’ team had the proper facilities to begin with, perhaps they never would’ve been put in this situation at all!

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