Of the likely places for a debate over religious free expression to erupt, a Texas high school track and field meet probably wasn’t high on the list.
Remarkably, that’s precisely where one athlete’s reactionary gesture has led to a broader discussion about what is appropriate at public school events, after a Columbus (Texas) High relay team was disqualified for one of their member’s heavenward gesture. The incident occurred in Columbus, where the track and field team was hosting a meet with the goal of qualify athletes for the state championship meet later in May.
As first reported by Houston CBS affiliate KHOU, the school’s 4x100-meter relay squad achieved just that in winning its race decisively. The anchor of that 4x100 squad was junior Derrick Hayes, who ran a particularly blazing split and celebrated the team’s state qualification with a simple finger point to the heavens.
The gesture is a common one in sports -- remember Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds after breaking the single season home run record? -- but on this occasion, it was deemed to have run afoul of a University Interscholastic League (UIL) regulation barring excessive celebration.
Once officials at the Columbus meet determined that Hayes had violated the excessive celebration rules, the entire 4x100-meter squad was disqualified and effectively barred from the state championships. The team will not get another chance to qualify for the meet.