Was High School Track Squad Disqualified Because of Religious Gesture?

By:  Dave Bohon
Was High School Track Squad Disqualified Because of Religious Gesture?

Was a Texas high school track squad disqualified from the state track meet because one of its members made a gesture of thanks to God?

A Texas high school track team has been disqualified from the state championship after one of its runners pointed to the sky after crossing the finish line. Some critics of the ruling suggested the student athlete was being singled out because he was acknowledging God. But an investigation by the athletic ruling body appears to show otherwise.

Derrick Hayes, a member of the 4x100 relay squad for the Columbus, Texas, high school track team, was jubilant as he crossed the finish line a full seven yards ahead of the next competitor, a victory that would take the squad to the state championship meet. As he crossed the finish line he pointed his finger toward the sky, a gesture his father said was meant as a gesture of thanks to God. “It was a reaction,” K.C. Hayes told ABC news affiliate WFAA in Dallas. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”

But the gesture broke a state intercollegiate rule against “excessive celebration,” and a referee for the race ultimately disqualified the four-man team for “unsporting conduct,” ending any chance for the team to go to the state championship. “I think it’s a travesty,” said Hayes of the ruling against his son. “It’s a sad deal. Those kids worked hard.”

The Columbus, Texas, school superintendent, Robert O’Connor, appealed the ruling to the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing organization for high school athletics in Texas, but it appears that the body is sticking to the original ruling. O’Connor said that while the penalty may seem excessive to some folks, the student did technically break the rule. “It’s a harsh consequence for what some people may deem a small gesture,” O’Connor told Fox News. “The rule states no celebratory gestures, including raising your arms.”

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