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We’ve all seen it hundreds of times. Athletes pointing to the sky in gratitude to God when they’ve won (and sometimes even when they’ve lost). Whether it’s Nick Swisher from the Cleveland Indians, Olympic athletes like Tervel Dlagnev after freestyle wrestling and Hunter Kemper at the end of a triathlon, or most notably Tim Tebow, it’s as American as apple pie. Until now.
As Texas high school sprinter Derrick Hayes crossed the finish line in the 4X100 relay with the team’s fastest time ever, he pointed to the sky. It was a natural impulse. It’s also what got the Columbus High School Mighty Cardinals team disqualified and out of the state championship.
“It was a reaction,” Derrick’s father, KC Hayes, said. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”
But the Texas school district has a zero tolerance for “excessive celebration” at sports events. Superintendent Robert O’Connor said that includes raising hands.
“I don’t think that the situation was technically a terrible scenario as far as his action, but the action did violate the context of the rule,” O’Connor said.
Like Shylock demanding his pound of flesh, O’Connor and the state have refused to budge.
Those coming to the team’s defense, including Derrick’s father, consider the disqualification a violation of religious freedom.
“You cross a finish line and you’ve accomplished a goal and within seconds it’s gone,” KC Hayes said. “To see four kids, you know, what does that tell them about the rest of their lives? You’re going to do what’s right, work extra hard, and have it ripped away from you?”
So now an act that was once commonplace (and still is in professional sports), has been deemed “excessive celebration” by the government powers that be. How ironic because it is not that at all. Quite the opposite. It’s an act of humility, a kind of sports version of non nobis, “Not to us, Lord, but to your name give glory.”
In a day of rampant narcissism among teens, this seems like the perfect message to encourage. Evidently not. Conformity to government regulations is the absolute, unwavering priority—no matter who suffers.