A youth basketball referee in Chesapeake, Va., has been barred from officiating future games after making negative comments about a Black player’s hairstyle.
Erica Guerrier, who coaches her daughter’s basketball team, said the unnamed referee singled out the 10-year-old player during a game this weekend, at one point approaching her to complain about the girl’s braided hair. The ref asserted that the player’s hair, which had blue-colored weave braided into it, was against the rules.
“He asked to speak to me and then he mentioned that one of the players, when she goes to the next level, she is going to have to do something about her hair,” Guerrier told local station WAVY.
The 10-year-old happened to be Guerrier’s own daughter.
To make matters worse, the young player was called over and subjected to further scrutiny as the adults debated whether her hairstyle was in violation of court rules.
“[The referee] pointed to, I guess the point where her natural hair meets the hair that was braided in, and said he did not know what that was … and I said that’s her natural hair,” Guerrier recalled. “Just to getting to the bottom of what are you talking about? There’s no such rule, so why are you bringing this up in front of this girl [that] her only love is just to play basketball?”
Guerrier said the official continued to make a spectacle of her daughter’s hair, telling her “she would have to do something” about the child’s hair as she advances in competition. However, while the Virginia High School League handbook and policy manual prohibits some hair accessories, braids and hair weave aren’t among them.
Executive Director Billy Haun told WAVY that referees are free to use their own discretion to remove players from a game if there’s a concern for safety, noting that the league rules are open for interpretation. However, Haun said he didn’t agree with the way the situation was handled, specifically the public nature of the referee’s criticism.
“If there were concerns about that young lady’s hair, that’s a conversation you have with a coach and with a player,” he said. “In this case, as young as this player was, you have the conversation with the parent before the game starts, but not during the game. Somewhere private. That’s not something you do on the floor, during the game, before the game or after the game.”
Guerrier is demanding an apology in the wake of the incident.
A commissioner for the Hampton Roads Basketball Association, which employs the official in question, said an investigation is underway and that the matter is being “taken very seriously.” The referee also will no longer be allowed to work games in the city of Chesapeake.
Watch more in the video.