Honoring breast cancer efforts gets team bounced from playoffs

A Los Angeles-area high school girls basketball team has been disqualified from a postseason tournament because it wore uniforms to call attention to breast cancer research.

The team wore pink numbers and letters on its jersey; the school’s colors are aren’t pink. Moreover, the school didn’t go through the proper channels to change uniforms. And — and tell me you didn’t see this coming — the proper channel involves adults.

“Breast cancer awareness is in October, and there’s a process for people to request color change,” City Section Commissioner John Aguirre tells the Los Angeles Times. “If they’re going to blatantly disregard these rules and regulations, they’re going to affect kids.”

The school — Narbonne High School — used the same uniforms in a win last week. So now the coach of the team that was defeated in that game thinks his squad should play for the championship.

The school was already on probation for using an ineligible player a year ago, the Torrance Daily Breeze says.

“I was outraged when I heard the news,” said Chris Cuaron, whose daughter, Nneka Anyaoha, is a senior on the team. “As I got a chance to read the rule I understood what it said, but what angered me even more is they allowed the girls to play in those uniforms in the first game. The officials had the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, you guys can’t wear that’ and they never did.”

Narbonne players were struggling to come to grips with the ruling late Monday.

“At first I thought it was a joke, but it’s completely devastating to have it end like this,” said Narbonne All-City guard Latecia Smith. “The punishment seems so harsh when it’s not the players’ fault. If we had known, we would have never disregarded the rules.”

Paul Lukas, who writes the Uni Watch blog, is conflicted. On the one hand, there’s the stupidity of it all. On the other, he’s sick of pink washing.

• It’s tempting to say that this is a fitting comeuppance for all the pink overkill, but come on — these are kids. It would’ve been better to say, “You can’t wear those again” or maybe assess them a technical foul at the start of their next game than to strip them of their win and bar them from the playoffs. Or, since the pink uniforms were the coach’s idea, bar the coach from working the next game. But punishing the kids doesn’t seem right.

• Aguirre’s line about breast cancer awareness being in October sounds pretty tone-deaf to me. For better or worse, Play 4 Kay is a big thing in women’s basketball (it helps raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund for breast cancer research and is named after the former NC State women’s basketball coach who died in 2009), and it takes place in February. Moreover, the high school basketball season doesn’t start until late November, so the teams couldn’t do the Pinktober thing even if they wanted to.

• That said, however, I have concerns about high school and youth programs modeling their uniform programs on what the pros and major colleges do. Pink, camouflage, stars/stripes — is this really about “raising awareness” for the various causes, or is it just about mimicking what the adults do because that feels more “official,” more “grown-up”? Sometimes it’s better to just let kids be kids.