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Parent Says Treatment Over Hair Beads Racially Motivated

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The parent of an Alabama youth soccer player says her daughter was discriminated against when she was warned by her coach that if she did not remove her hair beads she was at risk of being excluded from recreational soccer activities. 

Alecia Clay told WHNT that her 8-year-old daughter Anslie was enjoying playing soccer in Madison County's chapter of American Youth Soccer Organization. But she believes a coach's guidance on her daughter's hair beads, which were done for her birthday, was racially motivated. 

“With no parental guidance at all…she was told that if she wanted to play on Saturday she would have to take her hair down or she could not play,” Clay said. “He then proceeded to refer to her as ‘the noisy-haired little girl’ in front of the entire team throughout that practice and ultimately humiliated my daughter and embarrassed her to the point where she wasn’t comfortable playing. The other teammates would join in with teasing, taking from the coach’s example.”

Clay said she hasn't received any support from the league or other parents on the issue. 

“That director told me that ultimately he was sorry my daughter experienced that, but with it being so late in the season their hands were tied, there was nothing he could do,” Clay said.

AYSO conforms to rules set out by the international soccer governing body FIFA to interpret safety rules such as hair ornaments, and here it is listed as jewelry that could be considered dangerous.

The director of north Madison County’s chapter of AYSO referred News 19 to its national offices in California, which sent a statement reading,

“AYSO is committed to be an inclusive organization, but we regret how this situation has been handled with Ms. Clay and her daughter. It is never our intention to make any player, parent or volunteer feel excluded or singled out. We understand the sensitivity of this issue and others like it, and are committed to educating and training our volunteers to ensure this does not occur in the future. We will continue to dialogue with Ms. Clay to find a resolution.”

Clay says her daughter suffered emotional harm from the incident. 

“You can give me my money back at this point, but you cannot give me my daughter’s spirit back. You cannot give me my daughter’s love for the game back. You cannot give my daughter her love for her hair back to her. And now I as a parent – I’m left to repair those emotional damages and trauma ultimately.”

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