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Cameron Smith

Ref avoids harsh punishment for sexist comment in girls hoops game

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

While a case of brazen sexism has led to the firing and resignation of top soccer commentators in England, a slightly more subtle sexist jibe from a North Carolina high school basketball referee resulted in "corrective action" but no suspension, according to the News & Observer.

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As reporter J. Mike Blake first relayed following the Middle Creek (N.C.) High girls basketball game against Milbrook (N.C.) High, a now infamous comment was uttered when referee Aaron Seay got involved in a heated discussion with Middle Creek coach Wes Petty, who is pictured at right. At the end of the on-court debate, Seay loudly declared that he couldn't be scolded by "a girls coach," in front of Blake, Petty, Middle Creek assistant coach Billy Shipp and the public address announcer working at the game.

"It was a terrible insult to women's athletics from someone in a position as an official," Petty told Prep Rally in an email. "If
those are his feelings then he does not need to be a ref. It was a blatant shot at girls sports and the sad part is the guy is denying it to save his job.

"I don't even know the guy personally, but I know what he said. The truth be told, he knows what he said, too. Add to that there were several witnesses. I don't feel this guy needs to be anywhere near the game of basketball or any sport ever again."

After making the comment, Seay then assessed an immediate technical foul when Shipp protested against it.

"He made the comment walking away from the huddle," Petty told the News & Observer. "It's not like he said it to any of our faces. My assistant has been with me a long time, and he feels the same way I do about the girls. He heard it and immediately questioned him on it, and while he's questioning him on it, the technical is called within seconds."

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which refused to disclose what action it took, determined that Seay's comments were not meant to be derogatory toward Petty or girls basketball coaches in general.

"That is not what he said," [NCHSAA assistant commissioner and supervisor of officials Mark] Dreibelbis said. "He said he was not going to listen to a girls assistant coach. He meant nothing derogatory in terms of referencing girls -- he knows he made a mistake" in saying girls assistant.

"That has been corrected by this office," he continued. "We have followed up, and we have taken the necessary action. He did not mean that in any demeaning way, and that is my last comment."

Seay did not respond to inteview requests by the News & Observer.

While the NCHSAA may not have felt that the incident carried enough weight to require additional discipline, it clearly had a significant effect on the game. The technical against Shipp forced the Middle Creek coaching staff to remain seated on the bench for the remainder of the game, a factor that, when combined with Seay's earlier comment, clearly unnerved the Middle Creek players.

"It got in our heads too much," Middle Creek senior Amy Pittman told the News & Observer. "I don't think he should be reffing girls games if he doesn't take it that seriously."

Shipp made it clear that he reacted to the comment as a way of defending his players, and that he meant no affront to the official outside of challenging his comment.

"A couple of the kids on the bench looked and said, 'Did he just say that?'" Shipp told the News & Observer. "It was incredibly demeaning. I asked him, 'What do you mean, girls coach?' and he didn't respond. He just gave me a technical."

The NCHSAA's mostly inaction is pretty shocking, both to those in attendance and others who have come across the case since then. Regardless of what kind of reprimand some feel Seay should have received, the lack of any serious repurcussions for an openly sexist remark in front of teenage girls undermines exactly the kind of positive examples of equality that scholastic athletics are allegedly focused on promoting.

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