According to school officials and fans at Friday afternoon's JV Softball game between BFA-St. Albans and Winooski, a member of the Spartans entered the batters box wearing a religious head covering and was told by the umpire that she needed to tuck it in to her uniform to continue to play. The player declined to do so and left the game in tears according to Vicki Matthews, the grandmother of another player on the team.
We spoke with both Winooski Athletic Director Dennis Barcomb and head coach Nelson Murray, both declined to speak on camera but confirmed that the player in question has played multiple seasons in more than one sport and this was the first time her head covering was ever addressed by a referee or umpire. Coach Murray said the umpire explained her request was made as a safety precaution and Barcomb emphasized that at no point did the umpire ask the player to remove her religious head covering. One fan gave us her feeling on the situation as it unfolded.
"She was mortified, and she decided to leave and I don't blame her," said Matthews. "This is America and this is in Winooski, we have a lot of refugees here and she shouldn't have to feel that bad because she wears that."
We were unable to talk to the umpire, but we did reach out to Bob Johnson, the associate executive director of the Vermont Principle's Association and he had this to say: "Both nationally and in Vermont, waivers of the uniform requirement for student athletes are allowed, and have been granted, for religious or medical reasons."
Winooski school officials plan to discuss the matter further with the VPA on Monday.
PO Box 4508