October 13, 2011
Like the rest of her Southampton (Va.) Academy teammates, Mina Johnson was supposed to be getting ready for a junior varsity football game on Thursday night against Lasker (N.C.) Northeast Academy. The 5-foot-2, 170-pound defensive stalwart may have been the first girl to play football for the academy, but when she got on the field, she was just one of the guys.
As the Tidewater News reported, Johnson recorded four sacks in a recent game against Rocky Mount, and was gaining a reputation in the league as a standout junior varsity player. It all seemed to be going right for the eighth-grader -- until she suddenly decided to sit out her team's most recent game against Northeast.
Why? It wasn't due to injury. Rather, Johnson decided not to play in the game after the opposition threatened to forfeit if Johnson was allowed to play. Apparently, Northeast had a problem with its boys playing football against a girl. So instead of making a fuss about the whole situation, Johnson sat on the sidelines for her team's 60-0 victory.
"There is nothing in the rule books for junior varsity football in North Carolina or Virginia that says a girl can't play," the teen's mother, Mona Johnson, told the Tidewater News. "No one is breaking any rules by allowing her to play."
Northeast isn't the only upcoming opponent considering a forfeit if Johnson doesn't sit out. Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God Christian Academy is also reportedly considering a forfeit as well; the two schools are scheduled to play a game on Oct. 27.
The fact that Word of God may follow Northeast's lead isn't a coincidence. As the Tidewater News noted, both schools have something in common: They play in the same athletic association.
Both teams belong to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association. According to the league website, participation by boys in girls' sports and vice-versa is prohibited.
Regardless of what Word of God decides to do, the move to force Johnson to sit out and miss playing a game is beyond wrong. While Northeast's athletic association may say one thing, the school could have looked past the rule and played the junior varsity game anyway.
Not to discount JV football, but teams' records don't mean a thing at the end of the season. Most players are just happy to be on the field, playing the game they love. That was certainly true of Mina Johnson, who enjoyed playing for the love of the game, and the chance to play with her teammates.
Unsurprisingly, playing football has instilled a whole new level of confidence in the teenage ... and pride among her teammates.
"This is something you can't take away, ever, and it's me doing it," Johnson told the Tidewater News. "My first game, I took down a 6-foot quarterback."
To deprive a high school sophomore of the ability to play the sport she loves is simply wrong. As we've seen in years past, plenty of female athletes have competed on the football field -- and succeeded.
Even if Northeast Academy's junior varsity football team avoided getting beat by a girl, they still suffered another mild embarrassment as a result: They got trounced, 60-0, by a team motivated to beat them to honor their teammate on the sideline while that entire team was decked out in pink paraphernalia to honor Johnson and breast cancer month.
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