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9-Year-Old Benched at Soccer Game Because of Her Hair

Photograph by Instagram

Amy Zvovushe-Ramos was shocked when her 9-year-old daughter, Aubrey, was told she couldn’t play soccer because of her hair beads.

According to Think Progress, the African American girl was never pulled from the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) lineup for the past six years. But recently the referee benched her because she wore plastic beads in her hair.

The referee explained that beads are not acceptable on the field. It violates AYSO rules, which bans players from wearing jewelry, including hair clips, but the guidelines doesn’t specifically mention “beads.”

Zvovushe-Ramos feels that her daughter is being singled out and recently spoke out against the organization on Instagram.

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Well it pains me to have to be dealing with my current situation with the #AYSO I feel it absolutely necessary to be addressed on #internationaldayofthegirl. My 9 year old daughter, who has supported and been a participant in #AYSOsoccer for 5 years was not allowed to play in her game this past #Saturday because of her hair. My daughter has worn the same hairstyle for sports for as long as she's been playing and this is the first time it's been an issue. Her #AfricanAmerican hair is a different texture and is treated differently than #Caucasian hair. We found a child friendly style that allows her to play sports and still be a little girl. My daughter is the real #MVP because though she was publicly humiliated, she was the epitome of sportsmanship cheering her team from the bench. My husband and I combed the handbook for rules on braided hair secured with beads and found nothing. My daughter offered to tie her hair in a tight scrunchie and was denied. I have reached out to #AYSOcoorporate and have received no response. @ayso_soccer #iamnotmyhair #soccermom #soccergirl #soccer#unselfie

“We’re not just a fashion statement. Her #AfricanAmerican hair is a different texture and is treated differently than #Caucasian hair. We found a child-friendly style that allows her to play sports and still be a little girl,” the mom wrote.

Zvovushe-Ramos said she offered to pull Aubrey’s braids into a ponytail, but the referee wouldn’t go for that. As a result, she had to sit out the entire game.

This isn’t the first time a little girl got flak for her afro-textured hair. One mom recently spoke out against a teacher’s note she received about the amount of oil in her daughter’s hair.

The teacher advised her not to put too much coconut oil in the girl’s hair.

“I understand the necessary of coconut oil on Amia’s hair, but please do not use as much. The children were complaining that her hair 'stinks.' If you have to apply this daily—please do so lightly, so the kids don’t tease her. Thank you for understanding,” the note read.

It’s such a shame that little girls are still being told that their hair textures and styles are unacceptable. We’ve spent years straightening our hair to appeal to European standards, often leaving our strands and our self-esteem damaged in the process.

The reality is that kinky curly hair is different from straight hair. As a child, I also wore my hair in cornrows and beads. My mom would also moisturize my hair with oil to prevent breakage. Not only did it protect my hair, but also sporting braided hairstyles reflected my culture.

Now that I’m a parent, it’s important to pass on the tradition to my kids. My daughter also has curly hair, and there are times when she wears cornrows and beads.

So I can relate to Zvovushe-Ramos’ situation of wanting to style her daughter's hair in braids and beads. It didn’t seem like Aubrey was initially fazed by the referee’s actions. According to the mom, the young girl handled the situation with grace and cheered on her teammates from the sidelines throughout the game.

However, it has affected her confidence. “It’s rough for (Aubrey); she’s being strong but it was definitely a difficult weekend. On Saturday night she couldn’t sleep. She still wants to play soccer, but I don’t know what to do moving forward,” Zvovushe-Ramos said.

Zvovushe-Ramos and her husband has since made a formal complaint to AYSO. They received a response which stated, there was "no question" in the national office that hair beads are considered jewelry.

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On one hand, I do understand the organization’s rules. I played various sports as a child and we weren’t allowed to wear any plastic or metal hair accessories. If we got hit in the head, it could lead to a head injury. On the other hand, why was Aubrey allowed to play with beads for the past five years, if it wasn’t allowed? If Zvovushe-Ramo was made aware of the rules early on, she would have had time to come up with a different hairstyle. As she mentioned, it’s not easy to remove hair beads on the spot. It takes a lot of time. The whole situation could have been handled better instead of singling out Aubrey. Zvovushe-Ramo is calling for more diversity sensitivity training, at the very least, in AYSO.

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