Organizers of the coming Southwest Salsa Slam basketball tournament have said they will allow fourth-grader Jaelyn Bates to play with her otherwise all-boys team after initially banning her from the court.
Bates plays on the fourth-grade Frey Basketball Academy team.
Daymon Ely, attorney for the Bates family, had filed a temporary restraining order on Friday, asking the court to allow Bates to play.
“But honestly I think the legal stuff has very little to do with it,” Ely said Monday. “I think all sides came together and started to see the sense in letting this girl play. It was the right thing to do.”
The tournament is hosted by the New Mexico Select Youth Sport Club, which follows the national tournament rules of the American Athletic Union. The rules say girls must play with only girls and boys must play with only boys. Bates was given the option of playing in the tournament with an all-girls team but declined.
Bates’ coach, Kevin Frey, said this was the first time Bates was exempted from playing and that the rule has never been strictly enforced.
Joseph Jaramillo, New Mexico Select executive director, said the two sides reached an agreement Saturday. He said the club wanted to work out a solution from the start, but the family immediately obtained a lawyer so the group had to go through legal channels.
“We are not changing our rules,” he said. “Instead, we are providing a mechanism that allows for teams to ask for an exception.”
Bates’ father, Barry Bates, said his daughter was excited about the news but never fully understood why there was such controversy about her playing.
“She didn’t understand why she couldn’t play just because she was a girl,” he said. “She couldn’t grasp why she couldn’t play when she can keep up with the boys.”
Jaramillo said the group has always enforced the rules but has not always done a good job of making teams aware of them. He said organizers have been more vigilant about sticking to the rules since an incident last year when a mostly boys team with a girl player beat another team in the semifinals. Jaramillo said the defeated team became angry, started a physical confrontation and later filed a formal complaint.
“They were upset because we didn’t follow the rules and we allowed a girl to play on a boys team,” he said. “They started a melee in the gymnasium.”
Jaramillo said restraining order proceedings could have affected the tournament, which has more than 250 teams registered. He said the club will review its rules going forward. “We acknowledge it was creating a divide in the community, and we don’t want that,” Jaramillo said. “It was also causing a lot of stress for our volunteers.”