The quest for North Carolina girls hoops power Myers Park to play in the Dick’s National Tournament rolls on unabated, now with a bit of celebrity mojo.
On Monday, former NFL wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad wrote a letter to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) asking it to reconsider its decision to ban Myers Park from the competition. Muhammad, who has seven children in Charlotte-area schools and now heads an investment firm called Axum Capital Partners, cited the role that youth sports played in his own development and, in specific, claims that this opportunity to play in a national tournament may not come along again for Myers Park’s players. The letter was excerpted on the change.org petition page that was set up to gain support for Myers Park’s quest to get to New York. That petition currently has more than 2,700 signees, with a goal of reaching 5,000.
A decision on whether to grant Myers Park an extension to the winter sports season is expected Tuesday after a meeting with NCHSAA.
You can read Muhammad’s plea below, but first hear what he told USA TODAY High School Sports about the letter and why he thinks Myers Park should be playing in New York between April 2-4.
USA TODAY: What inspired you to write this letter on behalf of the Myers Park team?
MUHSIN MUHAMMAD: “I think right is right. I think these girls deserve a chance to play in that tournament. They are competitors of my daughter’s school, Ardrey Kell, but right is right. It would be an extraordinary experience for these girls, and to deny them a chance to play in this tournament would be looking at the letter of the law and applying it in a way that I don’t think it was meant to be applied.”
USAT: What about Myers Park makes this situation a bit different?
MM: Myers is a school right here in Charlotte. They’ve won back-to-back state championships and Bob Nelson has done a great job with that program. I think any person looking at this would agree with me. I think we need to look at the essence of why this policy was written.
The policy was written to give distinct stop and start dates between seasons, but was it really meant to penalize girls who have received awards from participating in prestigious events? If you follow the absolute letter of the policy you can enforce it one way or the other. But maybe you can look at it as a simple flaw, and then you can make exceptions in one case or another. This isn’t just a coach trying to train a team beyond a season, this is accepting an accomplishment from a great season, and I think there needs to be exceptions in situations like this.
USAT: In your experience, how often are Charlotte area students involved in multiple sports at the same time? Has it ever happened with your children?
MM: This happens all the times with kids. It’s not uncommon for one sport to overlap another sport, and it’s not uncommon for kids to play multiple sports. It happens with my kids, absolutely. I think more or less, when you look at this particular situation, it’s about what is right and what isn’t right. The policy is being enforced in the wrong way. I think there are other states like Georgia that have overturned this policy. It’s not uncommon for a state to see that there is something wrong with the policy and made an amendment to it. Or at least give the board the authority to make exceptions.
My name is Muhsin Muhammad II. You may recognize my name from my 14-year NFL career with the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. My wife and I have 7 children that attend Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. I have been involved with youth athletics my entire life; first as a participant and now as a major supporter of our community’s youth sports programs. The purpose of my email is to express my concerns with the recent decision to deny the Myers Park Women’s Basketball team the opportunity to participate in the Dick’s National basketball tournament.
As a young man, youth athletics molded my work habits, gave me goals to attain and showed me the importance of working with a team. As a result of my hard work, I was able to excel as a high school student-athlete, and earn a free college education. Because of what I accomplished in high school, I was afforded an opportunity to travel to a variety of places and see a world much larger than Lansing, MI, which was my home town. Because of that exposure, my course of life would forever change.
During college, I travelled to places and experienced parts of our country that completely reshaped my thoughts about this world that we live in. Eventually, I would travel to many foreign countries and gain a true perspective of our world economy. In 2007, I traveled to Ethiopia and Tanzania, and would eventually adopt 2 children from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I can honestly say that my Ethiopian children have changed my life more than I could ever change theirs.
Without my early exposure to traveling that athletics afforded me, I’m certain that the lives of my Ethiopian children would be different, and in so many ways, my life would be different. I believe that these young women earned the right to travel to NYC and play in this tournament. More importantly, they deserve an opportunity see one of the country’s greatest cities and experience something that may be life changing. They may never have an opportunity like this again. Who knows what dreams and goals may be sparked during this trip? This trip could potentially inspire one of the athletes to be something they never thought they could be.
I believe rules and policies are put in place to protect us and establish order in our society. I believe we all can agree that these same rules and policies are constantly amended when we find flaws or injustices within them. When rules and policies deter growth or result in punishment for accomplishing goals, a change needs to take place.
In other states where the “hard stop” rule is in place, legislators are taking a hard look at the policy and considering making amendments. I think they realize that the spirit of the rule was to protect each coach’s season and draw a proverbial line between seasons, but as we know, many sport seasons overlap. This rule was not developed to penalize success and deny teams the ability to accept rewards.
The Myers Park Women’s basketball team deserves to travel to New York and accept their invitation to play in this tournament. Their high level of play earned them this prestigious invitation. Not to mention, our city of Charlotte, our great state of North Carolina deserves to have representation at this tournament, and accept their recognition as a leader in youth athletics. I urge you to reconsider your ruling and take a hard look at the essence of this policy. It’s ok to admit that change is necessary, but once you deny them the opportunity to participate, it will be impossible to recreate this experience. Please don’t penalize them for their success. This is your opportunity to do the right thing.
Muhsin Muhammad II