Player Forced to Cut Hair by Umps During NC High School Softball Game

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 13, 2021

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 7: Boston, Ma 10/7/2020: (Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff)- The softball field at UMASS Boston in Boston is dormant on Oct. 7, 2020. With no intramural sports, college students endure a depressing timeout. Having virtual classes is bad enough, but suspending intramural leagues cuts out a huge social and recreational component of college life. (Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Nicole Pyles, a softball player for Hillside High School in North Carolina, was told she could only remain in a game against Jordan High if she removed beads from her hair.

According to Steve Wiseman of the News & Observer, two umpires—one of which was white and one of which was Black—strictly interpreted a rule from the National Federation of State High School Associations that bans plastic visors, bandannas and hair beads.

"It was humiliating," Pyles, who is Black, said. "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."

Pyles decided to have her teammates cut her hair and remove the beads to remain in the game.

"I was upset," she said of the white base umpire. "He 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 is investigating the incident and supported Pyles while calling out the rule in a statement.

"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 said. "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 wants the rule changed.

"I want to see the rule changed, specifically the beads rule," she said. "[It] embarrassed me, hurt me, hurt my family, embarrassed my teammates on their senior night in front of their families, their friends, previous Hillside students who played at Hillside years ago and graduated college."

Jordan eventually won the game 23-12.