Did a Display of Faith at Finish Line Disqualify a Texas Track Team?
Update (May 8): According to a statement, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has investigated the relay team's disqualification from the state track meet and found "no evidence to suggest that the disqualification took place as a result of the student-athlete expressing religious beliefs. The basis for the disqualification was due to the student-athlete behaving disrespectfully."
The UIL press release also includes a statement from Derrick Hayes, the disqualified athlete, who now says, "'Although I am very thankful for all God has given me and blessed me with … my actions upon winning the 4x100 relay were strictly the thrill of victory. With this being said, I do not feel my religious rights or freedoms were violated.'"
Four high school athletes in Texas have been disqualified from the state track meet after one runner violated district rules on excessive celebration.
His celebration? After winning the 4x100 relay race with his team's best time of the year, Derrick Hayes "pointed up to the sky. His father believes he was giving thanks in a gesture to God," KHOU reported.
Yet school district superintendent Robert O'Connor says Hayes's gesture "violated University Interscholastic League (UIL) regulation barring excessive celebration," which includes raising the hands. As a result, the entire team is disqualified and cannot run at the state championship meet.
Critics say the district's decision violates the athlete's religious freedom. O'Connor said that Hayes's gesture wasn't "technically a terrible scenario as far as his action, but the action did violate the context of the rule."
The team is not being given additional opportunities to qualify for the state meet.