Girls softball team taking a swing at constitutional issue
September 3, 2002
Some teenagers on a girls softball team in Basalt had as much success in the political field this summer as they did on the diamond.
The 13- and 14-year-old girls spurred the Basalt Town Council to consider a constitutional issue last week with a complaint of discrimination. The girls wrote a letter to council members complaining that they were forced to take the field this year with dull, inexpensive uniforms while several boys baseball teams received more professional-looking jerseys and pants.
The girls said they received nothing but visors and white, lightweight T-shirts that were blank except for a black number on the back. They claimed it was suggested to them, when they complained, that they spiff up the shirts by “decorating or personalizing” them.
“Since when have ball teams been expected to throw tie-dye parties for their uniforms?” the girls asked in a letter to the council. “That is definitely a new one to us.”
Boys teams would never be asked to do the same thing, the girls contended. They claimed it is embarrassing for them and Basalt for the team to show up at tournaments without decent uniforms that identified their town.
“As you can see, we are very upset about this,” said the letter representing nine team members. “The message we are getting is clear. We think that it is an unfair and sexist gesture to us and girls’ sports.”
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The Town Council responded by passing a resolution “reaffirming commitment to a policy of non-discrimination.”
Councilwoman Anne Freedman, who proposed the resolution, said she felt, after investigating, that the girls team was more a victim of oversight than discrimination. Nevertheless, she said she sympathized with the girls.
“They perceived themselves to be poor sisters,” she said.
Freedman said she proposed the non-discrimination resolution for council consideration because it is “important to state our position.”
“As a government subject to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, Federal Civil Rights Statute, court orders and State Law, we reaffirm our commitment to a policy of non-discrimination,” the resolution said. “Now, therefore, be it resolved, the town of Basalt will not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin or sex in any of its programs.”
Basalt public services manager Bob Gish, who oversees the recreation department, stressed that there was no intentional discrimination. The decision not to get complete new uniforms for the girls softball team was strictly a budgetary matter, he said.
The team will definitely receive new uniforms next year, regardless of budget constraints, Gish vowed.
Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin said whether it was intentional or not, the incident showed that sexism exists and must be addressed. The girls shouldn’t have been asked to decorate their T-shirts, he said.
“What if the boys were given T-shirts and they were told, ‘How would you like to decorate your T-shirts? We thought you might like to’?” Fox-Rubin said.
The councilman said he doubts the boys would tolerate the suggestion. “When I was a boy, if I would have said I wanted to decorate something, I would have been beat up,” he said.
Gish disputed that any town official suggested that the girls decorate their T-shirts. He indicated the suggestion may have come from within the team or by a parent.
The Town Council didn’t delve into the details of the issue. Instead it unanimously passed the anti-discrimination resolution. Councilman Leroy Duroux noted that the girls reportedly declined to wear polyester pants that were provided to them after the complaint.
“There’s a little bit of irony there,” Duroux said.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com]