Nicole Pyles was forced to cut her hair during a high school softball game after umpires demanded she remove her beads. The Hillside High School teen was mid-game when she begged her teammate to chop off her hair with a pair of scissors so she would be able to participate in the game.
Pyles is a black student at the Durham, North Carolina high school, and many believe the incident was racially motivated. The incident has stirred up quite a response in the community and the school district has launched an investigation into the potentially biased athletics rule.
The umpires were enforcing the state rule outlined by the National Federation of State High School Associations. The rule prohibits accessories during games such as plastic visors, bandannas, and hair beads. Many believe the rule is culturally biased, especially since bobby pins, barrettes, and hair clips are allowed.
The News & Observer reported that of the two umpires, one was Black and another was white. For some, the anger is directed at the rule, rather than the umpire. Many have called for abolishing the culturally insensitive rule that prevents students from playing in games while staying true to their cultural heritage. Pyles is angry at both the rule and the umpires.
Nicole Pyles, the student recently affected by the rule, spoke out against the situation Wednesday. “It was humiliating,” she told The Observer. “Why do I have to take away from myself just to play this game where we are actually doing well? I’m embarrassed because you pick on me in front of all these people for no reason.”
The game was being played during Pyles’ senior night, an important game for long-time athletes and soon-to-be high school graduates. During the April 19 event, one of Nicole Pyles’ teammates had to screen into the crowd “does anybody have scissors?”
“I was upset,” Pyles admitted. “[The umpire] had seen me play multiple times. If it was a rule that’s that important why wasn’t it enforced the first time you spoke to me or you saw me come on the field or off the field or any of that?”
Durham Public Schools issued a statement on the upsetting events. “DPS supports our student-athletes and their right to self-expression in a manner befitting their culture, consistent with safety in training and competition,” the statement read. “We believe the blanket ban on hair beads is culturally biased and problematic. We support our student, Nicole Pyles, and believe this rule should be amended. We frown on any rule or policy that promotes cultural insensitivity or does not reflect the ideals and principles of DPS and our employees.”
Pyles said in an interview that she was especially hurt by the fact that the rule was enforced mid-game, rather than at the beginning of the game. “For him just to bring it up because another coach or parent or whoever said something… I felt humiliated.” She feels that it was “for no reason, just because you’re losing doesn’t mean you need to pick on somebody.”