Torrance, Calif.(October 14, 2016)—The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), in light of a recent article by ABC News.com and other news outlets, would like to address the recent discrimination claims made against the organization. The incident in which a young player was prevented from participating in her game due to her hair beads was not an act of discrimination, but a matter of safety. AYSO has apologized for any feelings of discomfort the player may have felt. Although Law Four in the International FIFA Laws of the Game does not specify hair beads, jewelry and other such adornments, they are not permitted.
“On behalf of AYSO, we have sincerely apologized to the player for making her feel like she was singled out as that was not the intention. This was an issue of safety. Our rules govern over 500,000 players and volunteers. AYSO does its best on both the National and Regional levels to enforce the rules through our education and training.” Mark Stewart, President of AYSO National Board of Directors states.
Stewart continues to explain that it’s a very difficult situation for a volunteer-referee to tell a child that they are not allowed to play in a game. However, for the safety of the player and others on the field,the referee must make the call that is in the best interest of all of the players. Unless it is a medical alert bracelet, no jewelry, adornments or items such as retainers are allowed in AYSO, soccer or in many other contact sports.
AYSO is proud of our volunteer-based, inclusive non profit organization. Our Vision of providing world class youth soccer programs that enrich children’s lives is something we strive to accomplish each and everyday.
Our policy is to take incidents of discrimination seriously, from the first email sent on Sunday evening, the local Region immediately contacted the National office. We sincerely look to address situations such as this at the local volunteer-community level.
The family of the affected player and social supporters made claims of feeling silenced as the AYSO National Office deleted posts from the family published to our National Facebook page. Negative comments that are posted on the National platform are deleted and addressed directly to either the complainant or local community. The National office takes each posting on a case-by-case basis. This policy has been in place for years.
Our National Executive Director, Mike Hoyer states, “We apologize if you were offended by us removing the post, we provide counsel and monitor the situation, but it needs to be addressed at the community level.This incident has caused us to reevaluate our social media guidelines so that AYSO is more transparent to our members and our stakeholders.”
Hoyer held a conference call with ABC News.com to address their questions on Thursday morning. When asked if there was something else that could have been done, or if it were possible for the player to have played the game and taken the beads our later—Hoyer had a firm, “No.” This was a safety issue. For the safety of all of our players, the child was not allowed to play the game with the beads in her hair. As play intensifies with older players and recent limitations regarding heading the ball, safety concerns are heightened.
Another issue raised by the player’s mother is why the beads are now an issue when the child has played for several years. As Hoyer explained to ABC, players under eight normally do not have referees to monitor the game in AYSO. Referees, and the rules they enforce, are introduced in the U-10 division, which is the division the player is currently in. AYSO continually reevaluates our educational and training materials and this situation will be incorporated into that evaluation.
FIFA Laws of the Game
AYSO Rules and Regulations
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