A Colorado mother is speaking out after she claims her daughter was barred from competing with her cheerleading squad after a coach took issue with her natural hair.
The cheer coach, however, insists the child was booted after her mother threatened staff.
Tiyanna Young‘s 11-year-old daughter, Niemah, was a member of the Denver-based Diamond Elite All-Star Cheerleading team before she was allegedly booted for wanting to perform in her naturally curly hair, the upset mother told CBS News. Young said coach Stephanie Trujillo asked the child to wear a ponytail hair piece to match that of her mostly white and Latina teammates.
Initially, Young and her daughter obliged but were eventually excused from wearing the piece after the painfully tight ponytail caused the young athlete to become lightheaded.
“It’s easily a two-hour process,” Young said of styling her daughter’s hair for competition. “I have to literally use a hard brush and pull her hair back into the tightest ponytail I can get it into.”
Though Trujillo had made an exception for Niemah before, Young claims the coach had a change of heart and singled out her daughter over the issue during practice.
“The coach continues and asks the other teammates, ‘how do you feel that this African-American girl gets to wear her natural hair?’ ” she alleged.
Young voiced her frustrations on Facebook, posting screenshots of a text message conversation between her and Trujillo in which they discussed a previous agreement with coaches that Niemah would be allowed to wear braids or her natural hair. In one of the messages, the cheer coach ask for the $20 needed to purchase the required ponytail piece — a request that left Young frustrated and confused.
I am not going to say anything. Just let ONE conversation speak for itself. The proof is in the pudding. To make matters…
“I will not force Niemah to wear that hair after you and I both agreed she can wear her natural hair,” she wrote. “The way I’m seeing this, your word isn’t bond. Niemah was [excited] to wear her natural hair.”
Trujillo apologized and explained that while Niemah’s hair is beautiful, “all athletes are required to wear the same uniform.” This includes hair.
“You want to be treated like everyone else — well unfortunately this means ALL athletes will look alike,” the coach continued. “Hair, makeup, eyelashes, shoes and uniform.”
“But We already had an agreement,” Young replied, refusing to shell out money for a new ponytail.
“Then she will not compete,” Trujillo shot back.
The U.S. All Star Federation, the national governing body for all U.S. cheer and dance teams, states “hair must be secured off the face with a simple and unexaggerated style that is adaptable to all diversities.”
The situation escalated and Young claims her daughter was ultimately kicked off the team over the matter. However, the cheer organization says that isn’t the case.
In a statement to Atlanta Black Star, Diamond Elite All-Star Cheerleading insists the decision to dismiss Niemah from the team “was never based on the athlete or her ethnic background.” Rather, it was threats by the child’s mother to program staff that sparked “major safety concerns.”
“Our number one priority is the safety of the kids in our program. Apart from the safety concerns; the threat was a breach in the contract and was automatically grounds for dismissal from the team,” the organization said, calling Young’s rhetoric “slanderous” and “untrue.”
The threats were reportedly so severe that the squad notified police and filed a restraining order.
Young denies threatening anyone, and said all she wants is an apology for her daughter.
“An apology is the least they can do, and apologize for the negative accusation of me making threats to the gym,” she told NBC News.
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