A private school outside Atlanta recently informed 12-year-old Madison Baxter that she would not be welcome at tryouts for the 7th-grade football team, even though she started on the sixth-grade team and has been playing football since second grade. The reason she won’t be allowed on the field? Because her male teammates are beginning to have “impure thoughts” about her, Strong Rock Christian Academy school administrator Patrick Stuart told Baxter’s mother.
“In the meeting with the CEO of the school [Patrick Stuart], I was told that the reasons behind it were one, that the boys were going to start lusting after her and have impure thoughts about her and that the locker-room talk was not appropriate for a female to hear even though she had a separate locker room from the boys,” Baxter’s mother, Cassy Blythe, told Atlanta’s WXIA-TV.
“He said, ‘The best I can [come] up with is that men and women are created equal but different.’ And he said he’s been praying about it and came to the conclusion that he was making the right decision for the school,” Blythe added, according to Jezebel.
Baxter’s case, now part of a Facebook page pushing the school to “Let her play,” is unfortunately not unique: A Philadelphia youth league banned an 11-year-old girl last fall before reinstating her after a nationwide petition drive called attention to her case. And the logic behind Baxter’s case, sadly, isn’t unique either. The misguided assumption that the problem is the person who is “different” rather than hose who are incapable of accepting and adjusting to the difference has been used to urge gay players to remain in the closet, lest they become a distraction, and to keep female reporters out of male lockerrooms.
There are more than 1,500 girls playing football at American high schools, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, and that number has increased more than 17 percent in just four years. It’s not just a boys’ sport anymore. And more than that, playing football with a girl could have been a valuable experience for Baxter’s teammates about how to appropriately interact with women and girls, about how a person’s sex doesn’t make her inherently inferior athletically or in any other way, and about how having “impure thoughts” doesn’t mean you have license to act on them. They won’t get that lesson, though, because the adults in charge of Strong Rock Christian Academy’s athletics program apparently have yet to learn it themselves.