Jaelyn Bates joined Frey Basketball Academy's fourth-grade boys' team because "the girls didn't really give me a competition," the 10-year-old prodigy told the Albuquerque news program. However, officials for the host New Mexico Select have alerted coach Kevin Frey via email that his team cannot participate in the upcoming Southwest Salsa Slam so long as Bates remains on the roster.
According to KRQE, the email stated, "Girls can not play on boys teams and boys can not play on girls teams. That has been a rule in our tournament for a number of years but has not always been enforced. This year it will strictly be enforced for all teams."
Bates reportedly participated in New Mexico Select's 2013 Turkey Jam without incident last year. While Amateur Athletic Union rules also prevent girls from playing with boys, this fourth-grade tournament does not fall under the AAU umbrella. Naturally, Frey and the Bates family aren't too pleased with the decision, and local attorney Daymon Ely has reportedly taken up Jaelyn's cause pro bono.
"If there’s not another team that she can go to where the competition is going to be equal so that she can continue to get better, why hold her back?" Jaelyn's father, Barry Bates, asked the local TV station.
New Mexico Select officials reportedly responded to protests with another email: "The intent of the rule is simple; if you allow a 4th grade girl to play on a 4th grade boys team, how do you stop a 6'10" freshman boy from being allowed to play on a freshman girls team … NM Select will not bend or change our rules."
It appears New Mexico Select officials have been watching way too much "Ladybugs." Considering they can create their own rules, it stands to reason the program could prevent such a scenario.
(h/t USA TODAY)