The Charlottsville Cavaliers were heading into the last rounds of the National Travel Basketball Association’s tournament in South Carolina, triumphant after a five-game winning streak in the 11-and-under bracket. Another victory seemed imminent, until an announcement came from tourney officials: the Cavs were disqualified, because one of their players, ten year old Kymora Johnson, is a girl.

Her offense? Daring to compete.

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 “I was, like, shocked,” Kymora told The Washington Post. “And disappointed.”

Ironically, Johnson has played in this very tournament the last two years without complaint. This year, however, NTBA enacted a new policy: girls are only eligible to participate in league games and scrimmages.

Johnson found out as finals drew near, immediately volunteering to give up her uniform and sit in the stands if it would mean her team could continue. But the Cavs were out, and so was another team harboring a contraband female player. Nevermind that Johnson provided her birth certificate when checked in for the tournament.  Apparently, officials thought she wasn’t aaaactually playing, just, you know, hangin’ out like we silly girls do.

 “We have no problem with the girls sitting on the bench,” NTBA president John Whitley told the Daily Progress. “We don’t care who sits on the bench with the teams, that goes for anybody … to sit on the bench.”

Literally. A person said that. In 2015. His name is John. He enjoys demeaning female athletes and interfering with their right to flourish. His other passions include embodying the patriarchy and treating little girls like they’re disposable.

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Johnson’s nine male teammates didn’t fault her for the loss, though.Instead, they wore pink shirts to the game they should’ve played and stood on the sidelines in a show of support.

Alternately a point guard and shooting guard, Johnson has been playing with the Cavs since age five. At the time, there were no girls’ teams for Johnson’s age group, so her mother signed her up to play with the boys. She’s been playing alongside them ever since, and she doesn’t plan to stop now.

 “You have to fight for your freedom,” Johnson explained to the Post. “You have to fight for the right to do it.”

And fight she will. Johnson has every intention of returning to the tournament next year – and with any luck, we’ll be cheering her on. 

Image via Twitter/Jessica Thomas-Johnson

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