International students in Nevada are fighting for their right to play high school sports.
According to the Reno Gazette Journal, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association will hold a special meeting Friday in the wake of a lawsuit challenging the organization’s ban on international students playing varsity sports.
The NIAA will discuss offering a possible settlement to the five international students at Excel Christian School in the city of Sparks that filed a lawsuit earlier this month. The lawsuit says that the NIAA’s policies violate international students’ Constitutional guarantees to equal protection.
“This code discriminates,” said Alex Velto, of Hutchison and Steffen law firm, which filed the lawsuit in federal court in Nevada. “Federal courts have historically understood that people born in different countries have equal protection under the law.”
The five individuals involved in the lawsuit are Nutnicha Jutamas, of Thailand; Yanrui Sun, of China; Eunseon Jung, of Korea; Berke Arslankara, of Turkey; and Narapat Jutamas, of Thailand. The students are all on nonimmigrant visas that allow them to stay in the United States if they are enrolled in an academic educational program.
Jutamas has played for the Excel basketball team this winter, but has been told that the team may be forced to void its season if she continues to play. The rest of the students have been prevented from playing their respective sports this year.
The NIAA code allows international students to play on non-varsity teams from their freshman through junior years, while they can’t compete in any sanctioned sports as seniors.
“This prevents students from behind trafficked for sports,” NIAA executive director Bart Thompson told the Reno Gazette Journal, noting that scouts bring international students to other states to play sports, with a promise of the scout being cut into future contracts.
Thompson also said the rule prevents schools from stacking their teams, but Excel Christian School has just 45 students and has won zero athletic state championships.
“To be barred from playing sports because we are stacking the deck isn’t true,” Excel athletic director Debbie Green told the Gazette Journal. “These students want to play because they want to be with their friends and for the experience.”