The Charlottesville (Va.) Cavaliers U-11 youth basketball team made it to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, thanks to the New York Liberty and Delta Airlines.
The team gained national attention recently when it was disqualified from the National Travel Basketball Association’s National Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., because of the inclusion of Kymora Johnson, a soon-to-be-fifth-grade girl.
The Cavaliers, coaches and parents were flown to New York City and honored by the Liberty during the game against Tulsa. After the game, the Cavs were to play an exhibition game against MSG’s “Basketball in the Boroughs and Beyond” program and fans were invited to remain to support the two youth teams.
Johnson had played in the event in past year and Cavs officials insisted that they did not try to hide Johnson’s involvement, going as far as to insist that tournament officials understood that Johnson was a girl when the team checked in. The NTBA disputed this, saying the coaches were told that a girl would not be allowed to play and that the Cavs let Johnson play anyway.
Cavs coaches say they were told that teams were allowed to field one girl on their roster. That’s before things apparently changed, following the decision by officials to disqualify the Cavs shortly after the team had advanced to the tournament semifinals, apparently because another team from Florida had already been disqualified for fielding a girl.
The NTBA said players must play against players of the same gender and that the only exceptions are in certain regular season tournament but not the nationals.