CLARK, New Jersey -- A fifth-grade CYO basketball team is making national news after it refused an order from an archdiocese to kick two girls off the roster, instead forfeiting its season.
According to nj.com, the team at St. John the Apostle, which consisted of nine boys and two girls, had played together for four years. Two weeks ago they were told by the league's director that it was illegal for the girls to be on the roster and that they must be removed or the team would forfeit its remaining games and the season as a whole.
So the team was given a choice before a game Friday night:
"Is your decision to play the game without the two young ladies on the team, or do you want to stay as a team as you have all year?" Matthew Dohn, a parent of one of the players, asked the team. "Show of hands for play as a team?"
The vote was unanimous to keep the girls on the roster and forfeit, nj.com reports.
The show of unity has brought plenty of positive attention to the team. But when the two girls on the team volunteered to sit out the final game on Saturday so the boys could play, the league's athletic director rejected the gesture, nj.com reports.
"The AD said that the league director called Friday's game a 'stunt,' and because of it, the game had been canceled and the season forfeited," Keisha Martel, an assistant coach, tells nj.com.
St. John's was scheduled to play Saturday at Aquinas Academy in Livingston, N.J. Leslie Thomas, the athletic director for Aquinas, tells nj.com its team was willing to play St. John's with or without girls on the roster.
"I'm sick and tired of this," she said. "It's not necessary. This league is about teaching our kids sportsmanship and this is definitely not sportsmanship. If they didn't realize the girls were on the team over the years, then that's their fault, and the season should continue. At the end of the day it's not about the officials or coaches or parents - it's about the kids."
Officials with the league and the archdiocese of Newark declined to comment to nj.com on the issue.
A girl on the St. John's team, Kayla Martel, tells nj.com she appreciated the vote from her teammates despite the consequences.
"It has a big impact on me because it shows that they care. I'm part of them just as they're part of me and they don't want to break that bond just like I don't want to break that bond," Kayla said. "I think the rules are ridiculous."
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