Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

High Schoolers Banned From Basketball League for Racist Jerseys

We all want sports to be fun, especially at the youth recreational level. "That's the thing," Ohio parent Tony Rue told WLWT, "those names are not having fun. It's not so much even if we had black students or African-American students, or any minority students. Our kids were offended."

Rue was referring to the names printed on the back of one youth basketball team's jerseys, names that included "Knee Grow" and "Coon." The team's name? "Wet Dream Team." The team was banned from the Cincinnati Premier Youth Basketball League after playing three games in the jerseys.

Not a Joke

League spokesman Ben Goodyear said no one reported the jerseys in the first three games of the season, although an opposing coach said he reported the jerseys to referees and took pictures, intending to report them to the league. Milford coach Jason DiTullio said he approached two players about their names, telling them the names were "provocative and unacceptable." "They just laughed," DiTullio told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "They thought it was a funny joke."

The team was finally suspended midway through the second quarter of their fourth game, and Goodyear released a statement:

"CPYBL was developed to provide the best possible basketball experience for the youth of our communities and their families and has always been committed to bringing a positive experience to all of our members. Based on the information that we received, the actions and conduct of the team in question did not comply with our stated mission and expected standards and that team has, therefore, been dismissed from our league."

No Free Speech Issue

Just in case you were wondering, you don't have a First Amendment right to offensive names on your basketball league jerseys. Private entities like sports leagues can restrict the language on jerseys for league-sanctioned teams. The local King Mills superintendent stressed the basketball league was a separate organization, but even public schools are given some latitude when censoring student speech.

So by all means, have fun with your rec league team and jersey names. But racism and sexism aren't fun.

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