Last month, a high school softball player in Durham, North Carolina
, said she was "humiliated" when she was forced to cut beads from her braids during a game.
Nicole Pyles, 16, told The News & Observer this week that two umpires who were officiating the game on April
19 told her that she would have to remove the beads from her braids — a traditional Black cultural hairstyle associated with Black empowerment and pride in one's African heritage.
Pyles told the News & Observer that she thought the officials were treating her unfairly.
“At this point, I feel humiliated and embarrassed because everyone was just trying to figure out what to do,” she said, describing her feelings at the time. “I know these beads have to come out. There’s nothing I can do to stop this.”
Pyles told the Southern Coalition for Social Justice's Youth Justice Project that she was told her hair was covering her jersey number, but a photo from the game published by local news station WRAL shows her jersey number is unobstructed.
I felt humiliated and disrespected, as if the entire world was staring at me.
Nicole Pyles, a student-athlete in high school,
She said she initially dealt with the problem by tucking her braids away, but game officials later told her that the beads had to be removed, and she said some of the beads had to be cut out of her hair because they were wrapped tightly around her braids.
“They weren’t hurting me, but you could feel someone grabbing your hair,” she explained, adding that her braids were messed up in the process.
“I felt embarrassed, and I most definitely felt disrespected,” she said, adding that she felt as if the entire world was staring at her.
The teen also expressed disappointment because she had previously worn her hair in the same style at softball games.
In a statement to WRAL, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which interprets National Federation of State High School Associations game rules, sided with the game officials, citing a rule for softball games that states "plastic visors, bandanas, and hair-beads are prohibited."
“This is not a new rule, and when the violation was noticed by an umpire, the proper determination of illegal equipment was verified as supported by NFHS rule,” the organization said.
The NCHSAA did not respond to Stardia's request for comment right away.
Durham Public Schools, which does not prohibit hair beads, stated on Wednesday that a "blanket ban on hair beads is culturally biased and problematic" after conducting an investigation.
“We support our student, Nicole Pyles, and believe this rule should be amended,” DPS stated, adding that “we oppose any rule or policy that promotes cultural insensitivity or does not reflect the ideals and principles of DPS and our employees.”
According to the Associated Press
, the Durham City Council voted in January to prohibit employers from discriminating based on hairstyles.
“My daughter — that whole team should’ve been protected,” Nicole Pyles’ father, Julius Pyles, told the Youth Justice Project. “Fix the policies for Black children
so they don’t face discrimination.”