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A high school basketball player was benched for wearing a hijab at her school's final game

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A high school basketball player was held out of her team's final game of the season, because she was wearing a hijab, or Muslim head covering.

Watkins Mill High School Coach Donita Adams made sure every girl played in the team's first region final appearance on March 3. But Adams left Je'Nan Hayes sitting on the bench. She had no other choice.

Adams explained that she was approached by the Referee before the game.


"He told me my player couldn't play, due to, what he referenced it as, 'headgear'" Adams said. "So we had a discussion, what are her options, because we had never been informed of this rule. She played all 24 games and on the 25th game she couldn't play, so I needed clarification on that."

Rules do require that a player needs a state-signed waiver to wear a religious garment, but no one had ever asked for one in the other games where Hayes played.

Hayes' team lost the championship game.


I think this is, this is motivation. I feel, I'm not discouraged whatsoever.
Je'Nan Hayes

Je'Nan said she isn't letting this incident discourage her not one bit.

"I think this is, this is motivation. I feel, I'm not discouraged whatsoever. Since this has gone so far, I don't feel discouraged or angered. I just have, you know, that hunger to succeed and I just want to take this far."

The Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association statement:

High school athletics in Maryland has a strong and stable tradition of providing safe, meaningful and equitable participation for students. Unfortunately the officials made a strict interpretation of the National Federation of State High Schools playing rules for basketball instead of the spirit of the rule designed to ensure safety and competitive fairness.


The statement continued:

There should have been no denial of participation and we are committed to working with the school and the family to ensure this does not happen again.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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