PHILADELPHIA – A hijabi American high school basketballer from Mastery Shoemaker, Philadelphia was forced by a referee to leave a game on Friday because of her hijab.
“I was playing in a playoff game on February 16 when the referee told me he won’t allow me to continue playing with my head covering on,” Nasihah Thompson-King, 16, told NBC10.
“I was embarrassed because it was in the middle of a game,” the Muslim student said. “We have spectators watching and you chose to do that in front of all those people.”
Thompson-King said she has been in 24 games prior to Friday and never had an issue being veiled.
Jimmy Lynch, the head of the Philadelphia Public League, clarified the same referee allowed the Muslim girl to play with her hijab in a previous match on February 14.
In an interview with NBC10, the head of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) said Friday’s incident “was due to a communication issue, not a religious one.”
He claimed that “Thompson-King’s coach had three chances since November to fill out the form but never did so.”
According to league policy, athletes’ coaches are required to fill out a waiver so that the association can approve any head covering.
In response, Lynch and seven state lawmakers sent a letter on February 20 to the PIAA asking for the waiver rule to be dropped for religious reasons.
The State Association said there have been at least 15 athletes from the area who requested to wear a head covering and all of them have been approved.
Lynch said that form has been filled out and the Muslim teen will be able to play in the team’s playoff game on Wednesday at Kensington High School.