A gesture to heaven turns into a lesson for Texas track team

Posted Friday, May. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy By all descriptions, the Columbus Cardinals were on their way to the state boys’ track meet Saturday when fate — or a race official — intervened.

Depending on your point of view, what happened next was either a routine call — or religious discrimination.

In the latest morality play from Texas high school sports, a Columbus parent blames anti-Christian bigotry because his son was disqualified for pointing skyward as he crossed the finish line.

Junior Derrick Hayes was anchoring the Cardinals’ 400-meter relay team and was several yards ahead when he lifted a finger — a violation of high school track sportsmanship rules against gestures or taunts, definitely during a race.

Father K.C. Hayes suspects Satan.

According to TV station KHOU in Houston, he and Columbus fans have complained that Hayes was punished for expressing faith.

The heavenward gesture was a “reaction,” Hayes told the TV station.

“I mean, you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”

His loser’s whine would be laughed off except for one leader taking his side: Attorney General Greg Abbott.

After the blatantly one-sided TV report — which did not include any track coach or official explaining the rule and how such disqualifications are common — Abbott posted the news story on Twitter with a personal comment:

“Disgraceful,” Abbott wrote.

“Winning track team disqualified for praising God.”

First of all, I’m not sure how the rule read when Abbott was on the Duncanville Panthers track team.

But coaches tell me school athletes haven’t been allowed to point or gesture during a race for years, whether it’s to thank heaven or say “We’re No. 1.” Two years ago, a Lufkin relay team was booted for the same thing.

Also — isn’t Abbott supposed to defend the rules?

Steve McBride, coach at the private Shelton School in Dallas, is also the president of the Texas Track & Field Coaches Association.

When I told him the complaint, he replied: “Oh, brother.”

“There’s always been a rule against any conduct or gesture that shows off or shows up your competition,” he said.

That includes skyward gestures.

“You can have any religious beliefs,” he said.

“I don’t think you have to demonstrate them in that situation.”

Yet the Cardinals fans and Abbott want a special track rule allowing gestures just for Christians.

He’s right.


Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @budkennedy Get alerts at rebelmouse.com/budkennedy

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