A high school relay track team in Texas has been disqualified from winning their regional meet, and subsequently prevented from moving on to the state championships, due to a judge’s decision that the anchor runner had “taunted” the opposing team by pointing to God.

Via My Fox Houston:

Some people are outraged after a high school track team is disqualified from competing in state finals because one runner made a religious gesture. In just a few seconds the boys Columbus High School 4 X 100 relay team went from winning the regional meet, heading to state championships to having it all stripped away. How did the “W” so quickly become “DQ”? Well. when the anchor of the relay team crossed the finish line, he won the race, raised his finger to the sky and that gesture caused the winning regional’s relay team to be disqualified.

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“It’s a sad deal. I think it’s a travesty. Those kids work hard,” says K.C. Hayes. Hayes’ son Derrick Hayes is the runner who won the race then pointed to God, turning a once in a lifetime opportunity into a huge heartbreak that will likely last his lifetime. “As a team they reached their goal and in an instant it was just gone, over something we think is a non-issue. I guess someone else thinks it is an issue. He just said dad I was pointing at the heavens” says K.C. Hayes.

A judge with the University Interscholastic League or UIL, which enforces the rules for high school athletics, was there at the meet in Kingsville and made the call to disqualify the four member relay team. “For those kids the work they put in, what are we teaching them? Ok you’re going to sacrifice, work hard and do everything it takes and ok it’s just ripped away,” says Hayes.

“It’s a harsh consequence for what some people may deem a small gesture. The rule states no celebratory gestures including raising your arms,” explains Columbus I.S.D. Superintendent Robert O’Connor. According to the UIL the relay team was disqualified for “unsporting conduct”. The UIL also points out, it does not have a rule prohibiting religious expression. “You can do whatever you want to in terms of prayer, kneeling or whatever you want to once you get out of the competition area. You just can’t do it in the competition area. It goes back to the taunting rule. I can’t taunt my opponent,” O’Connor explains.

First off, there is a difference between taunting and celebrating with somebody that you believe helped in your victory.  Sharing the moment with a gesture to God is no more a taunt than going in the stands and hugging your mother after a victory.

Second, the judge is so focused on enforcing alleged taunting rules that the bigger picture becomes clouded.  And this is true really in any case where somebody is disqualified for a mundane act.  You’ve essentially awarded the inferior second place team with victory because the other team may have hurt their feelings.

Get over it already.  Rewarding teams out of sympathy over teams with better talent is absurd.  The spirit of competition has been removed by a judge standing on the sidelines.

What are we teaching our kids?