Survey time, #nerdland: your high school sports team is just one game away from a state championship. As you prepare for the big game, you find out your opponent’s team has one member of the opposite gender. What do you do?
If you said, “forfeit the game, and a chance at the championship title,” then you are on the same page as Our Lady of Sorrows, an Arizona fundamentalist Catholic high school. On Thursday, the Our Lady of Sorrows baseball squad forfeited the Arizona Charter Athletic Association state championship game against Mesa Preparatory Academy, a team with one girl on it.
Paige Sultzbach is a freshman at Mesa Prep and, according to the Arizona Republic, she joined the boys baseball team with encouragement from the coach because the school does not have a girls softball team. Sultzbach sat out two games during the regular season against Our Lady of Sorrows (which has a school policy prohibiting co-ed sports)out of respect for the school’s beliefs.
Sitting out the championship game was not an option.
Our Lady of Sorrows is not part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, and is run by the U.S. branch of the conservative Society of Saint Pius X, which broke with the Catholic Church in the 1980s. (There are over two dozen schools in the U.S. run by the Society.)
Our Lady of Sorrows released a statement to FoxNews.com, saying that they had “no choice” because of their belief in “forming and educating boys and girls separately”:
“Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty,” the statement read. “Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls.”
Paige’s mother, Pamela Sultzbach, offered her translation not just of the remarks, but Our Lady of Sorrows’ actions (which spoke volumes all their own):
“This is not a contact sport, it shouldn’t be an issue…It wasn’t that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it’s that (they believe) a girl’s place is not on a field.”
While the Mesa Prep baseball team ended their season undefeated, I do think it’s disappointing that they couldn’t finish their run and deliver a championship to their school fair and square. What kind of a win is the one that’s given to you because the other team won’t play against a girl? In the real world, you can’t just sit out of every competition that will involve someone of the opposite gender. Perhaps someone should have offered to administer “cootie shots” before the game.
Postscript: On our April 21 show, Melissa discussed the role of women in sports and the importance of Title IX regulations to end discrimination in sports last month. See the discussion below with pioneering marathoner Kathrine Switzer, ESPN.com columnist Jemele Hill, Salon columnist Rebecca Traister, and Black Girls Run! co-founder Ashley Hicks.