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Muslim Athlete Disqualified Over Uniform
Juashaunna Kelly, a senior at the District of Columbia’s Theodore Roosevelt High School, has the fastest mile and 2-mile times of any girl runner in the city this winter. She was disqualified from Saturday’s Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet.
Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt’s cross-country and track teams. The custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard covers her head, arms, torso and legs. Over the unitard, she wears the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.
The outfit allows her to compete while adhering to her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands.
“It’s not special,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t make me perform better.”
But meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly’s uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event. Uniforms are required to be “a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches,” he said.
Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman Kate Harrison said the decision about the uniform was not made by Rogers, but by referees who were part of an independent organization.
The organization told the school system that the decision was based solely on the multicolored top, she said.
Rogers said that he knew Kelly was wearing the uniform for religious reasons and that he offered her several options to conform to the rules while still respecting her faith, including placing a plain T-shirt over her unitard and then wearing her team uniform over it.
Kelly’s mother, Sarah, and Roosevelt Coach Tony Bowden disputed that account. They said officials made several demands of her daughter before officials made the decision.
“First, they said she had to take her hood off,” Sarah Kelly said. “Then, they said she can’t have anything with logos displayed. Then, they said she had to turn it inside out. When I told them that there weren’t any logos on it, they said she had to put a plain white T-shirt on over it.”
Juashaunna Kelly has worn the same uniform for three years without any problems, including at last year’s Montgomery Invitational. Rogers said officials must have missed the uniform last year.
“It wasn’t a problem last year, and it’s a problem this year? Make me understand why,” Bowden said.
Kelly, whose 1,600-meter time of 5 minutes 17.49 seconds and 3,200-meter time of 12:00.81 are the fastest of any D.C. girl, was hoping to run fast enough at the Montgomery Invitational to qualify for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 8-9.
Bowden said the team has no other meets scheduled that would allow her to qualify for the event, which attracts dozens of college recruiters.