Is it reasonable to disqualify an athlete for having a bigger rear than their other teammates? Well apparently, someone in the Anchorage School District thought so, and now their decision to disqualify a Black female athlete for “exposing too much of her buttocks” had been reversed due to public outrage.
Last Friday, Breckynn Willis’ won four competitions at a swim meet yet despite her impressive showing was later disqualified by referee Jill Blackstone who cited a modesty clause. Blackstone essentially accused the 17-year-old of altering her swimsuit show off her rear end. It is also worth noting that Willis, who is biracial, is one of the few students of color on Dimond High School’s swim team.
According to CNN, in the wake of public backlash, the Alaska School Activities Association has announced its decision to reverse Willis’ disqualification because officials now concede the ruling was “heavy-handed and unnecessary” and claimed Willis was “targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.”
Despite the apology, Breckynn’s mother, Meagan Kowatch, maintains that her daughter was wearing the same swimsuit every other member on the squad wears to compete and is still upset with how her child was treated.
“It’s sexual harassment,” Kowatch said. “It shouldn’t have any place on the pool deck.”
Some say swimsuit modesty rule, which the National Federation of State High School Associations says is in effect at high school swim competitions around the country, was cited due to an August memo the organization sent out, warning that high school athletes have been caught rolling up their swimsuits “in such a way as to expose the athlete’s buttocks.”
But due to the controversy with Willis’ case, the Alaska School Activities Association has now sent an updated letter to swim and dive officials reminding them that this rule only applies when an athlete is intentionally rolling up their swimsuit. Otherwise, a disqualification simply due to the way they’re naturally built is unreasonable.