A freshman soccer player in Pa. was recently removed from a game due to his religious headwear.
Officials told WPVI-TV that the incident occurred when a referee removed the Marple Newtown (Newtown Square, Pa.) player from a game at Conestoga (Berwyn, Pa.).
Witnesses told WPVI that the referee would not allow a certain player onto the field because he was wearing a headpiece in compliance with his Sikh faith.
The referee reportedly cited National Federation of High School Soccer rules that state, “Illegal equipment shall not be worn by any player. Types of equipment which are illegal include, but are not limited to helmets, hats, caps or visors.”
According to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), per Tredyfrin Patch, districts can apply for exemptions from such rules by requesting certain players be allowed to wear religious items.
Marple Newtown School District officials were notified of what happened and have since opened an investigation to determine if the player’s religious rights were violated by the decision.
In a statement to WPVI, school district attorney Mark Sereni wrote:
“Our District was surprised to learn yesterday that, according to a PIAA soccer referee’s decision, the PIAA apparently does not have a rule that reasonably accommodates the wearing of religious headwear by our student athletes who play soccer. Our district is investigating this ruling and has advocated and will continue to advocate for the rights of our student athletes to appropriately wear religious headgear.”
District officials added to WPVI that, at this point, there is no reason to believe the motive was to restrict the student’s religious freedom.