The 11-under Charlottesville Cavs basketball team had reached the semifinal of the National Travel Basketball Association (NTBA) tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., when it found out it had been disqualified from the tournament because one of its players is a girl.
When Kymora Johnson found out her team could no longer participate in the tournament, she asked if she could be disqualified on her own or sit out so her team could continue.
“I wanted my team to be able to make the championships, to be able to play,” she told The Washington Post.
Despite her pleas, the team was told it was no longer allowed to play in the tournament. The NTBA disallowed girls from playing on boy's teams in the tournament earlier this year after parents complained about girls on boy's teams.
Johnson's mother, Jessica Thomas-Johnson told the media that at no time did she try to hide the gender of her child during the tournament check-in process and the new rule was not made clear to the team.
According to NTBA president John Whitley, tournament officials waited until right before the semifinal to disqualify the team because they didn't realize Johnson was actually participating in games until someone took a picture of her playing and complained to officials.
Whitley said previously that the NTBA assumed Johnson would just wear a jersey and sit on the bench. “We have no problem with the girls sitting on the bench,” Whitley said.
After the disqualification, the Cavs appeared at the semifinal game in jerseys and stood in silent protest in support of Johnson. A report by ABC said the team's coach, Joe Mallory, is threatening to sue the NTBA.
The NTBA has since released a statement defending its decision to disqualify the team, but said the organization will reexamine its policies.
But the organization questioned how it would be allowed to keep boys off girls' teams without a rule keeping girls off boys' teams.
"[I]f the NTBA were to allow girls on the boys’ teams during a national tournament, would it likewise be required to allow boys on the girls’ teams during those same national tournaments?" the organization asked.
Johnson's mother wonders what effect this rule will have on the players in the long term.
"I can’t believe this is 2015, and my daughter isn’t allowed to play with boys,” Thomas-Johnson said. “What message does this send to other girls? What message does it send to boys?"