Ethics Dunces: Columbus (Texas)Track and Field Officials

An athlete who points skyward after an athletic victory in acknowledgement of his faith is not engaging in “excessive celebration,” as prohibited by University Interscholastic League rules. If that is a common interpretation of the rule, it should have been challenged and excised long ago. The equivalent of a quick personal prayer is neither obtrusive, obnoxious nor mocking, and any observers who find it thus are so virulently anti-religion and intolerant that they warrant no respect or attention whatsoever. And still…

Yes, Columbus (Texas) High’s re 4×100-meter relay squad had won its event, spurred by the stellar efforts of  junior Derrick Hayes. Upon learning of the team’s victory, he pointed a finger to the skies. This common gesture, which can be seen dozens of times every day on videotapes of baseball games, was ruled by officials at the meet to have violated the University Interscholastic League (UIL) regulation barring “excessive celebration.” As a result, the entire 4×100-meter squad was disqualified and  barred from moving on to the state championships.

If that harmless and inoffensive gesture was going to be interpreted as a celebration, which it is not, and if it is, excessive, which it also is not, the UIL had an obligation to warn coaches and athletes that it intended to enforce the rule idiotically and in a manner hostile to personal faith.  It does not appear that such a warning was given. The penalty was unjust and cruel, and its effect is hostile to religion, as well as common sense and rationality. Columbus High should rally to the support of Hayes and his team mates, and the other teams ought to protest this result as well. This is “no-tolerance” in all the worst senses of the word.


Pointer: Alexander Cheezem

Source: Yahoo Sports

20 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Columbus (Texas)Track and Field Officials

  1. When I first heard this on the radio, several people involved called in to the talk show.

    Apparently the ‘judges’ were all volunteers or some such.

    No formal education on the rules just a once over.

    So, who knows? Vindictive atheist wanting to make a point or just an over zealous parent who doesn’t know better.

    Either way, the final ruling by the actual judges should have interdicted the nonsense. Unless those judges as well are vindictive.

  2. Wow. that is hard to swallow.. Watched the video thinking there was more to this story… There has to be something more serious than a kid pointing to the sky to disqualify the relay team.

  3. I’m still trying to get some hard info on what happened here, myself. I’m also waiting for a UIL official to overrule this outrageous edit. Columbus (the site of the motion picture “The Last Picture Show”) is a well-known Texan small town, often visited by travellers between Houston and Austin. It’s nearly the epitome of small town Texas. That something like this would happen there is disturbing, indeed.

  4. Stunning. This could happen in San Francisco or Vermont, but in Texas? Makes me suspicious about whose team made it to the state championship after Columbus’s team was DQed.

  5. The news media is making sure everyone knows they weren’t disqualified because of a religious gesture, but because it was a ‘celebration’.

  6. Frankly, any sports player — of any ilk — who thanks some Higher Power with such a gesture, is a moron. Any God or Higher Power who cares one whit about who wins a sports competition is either a sadist or a comedian… why not put down the Big Hand and stop the wars, torture, and slavery rampant in the rest of the world? I don’t think any team player who thanks (whomever) by pointing to the sky should be punished in any way, but should only be viewed as the idiot he is… God cares about what you do on a playing field? Give me a break.

    • So? This isn’t about the belief in an interventionist God. This is about the decision to disqualify a sports team based on an athlete making a celebratory hand gesture.

    • Alexander’s point is an accurate rebuttal, but engaging your line of reasoning, I ask you:

      Why do you think it moronic for an individual, believing the source of their talent is their Creator, to give credit for their talents to that Creator?

      • Credit for their talents, sure. Of course, many athletes in the pointing mode mean much more than that, as in, “Thanks for the home run.” Elizabeth’s point that it would take a mighty trivial deity to devote any attention or energy to baseball games is well taken.

        • I understand that, however it requires an assumption of triviality on our parts to attribute that to the players.

          Don’t we try to give benefit of the doubt?

    • It”s about the player acknowledging God as his inspiration and support, not Gods intervention in the game.

    • You don’t know why players are praying on the field.
      They could be thanking God for the ability to succeed at what they do. They could be thanking God for helping them to perform at their personal best.
      They could very well be “thanking God for the home run” because that home run might end up putting their kids through college, in the case of athletes dreaming of going pro.
      They could be thanking God because they believe it’s important not to take exciting adrenaline-filled moments in life for granted.

      To assume that they believe that God just wants their team to win and the other team to lose is to assume the worst possible thing (and the less likely thing, probably).
      When sports stars do their “I’d like to thank God” speeches, it’s usually because they are exhilarated and glad to be there. I hear a lot of “I want to thank God for helping me do this and making it possible”, etc. How often do you really get the impression that they actually believe that God just wanted their team to win more?

      Which is why when people shoot down praying/God-thanking athletes by assuming said motive, it sounds a lot like just a spiteful crack.

  7. There appears to be more to the story. The University Interscholastic League, the governing body of high school sports, claims that the runner was disqualified for disrespectful conduct and not a religious display. Here is the new link: The father, who initially claimed that the runner and his team were disqualified because of a display of excessive celebration with religious overtones, now claims that he never said that it was an act of religious discrimination. Check out the link and decide if the family is correct.


    • That story makes no sense at all. First of all, I certainly didn’t argue that the kid’s religious freedom was being suppressed–I said that disqualifying anyone for “celebrating” if this is all they did is cruel and stupid. We still don’t know authoritatively what the kid did, if anything. How hard is it to get the official to say “he did this, so we disqualified the team”?

      • Jack, thanks for your comment. I didn’t mean to imply that you argued about religious suppression. In fact, the parents made the allegation, in a round-about-indirect-sort-of way. I read your post and, living in Houston area where this took place, I had the same thoughts as you, that some race official was applying some nebulous, vague and thoroughly arbitrary and subjective standard.concerning celebrations by disqualifying the runner and his team.

        My comment was more to the continuing/developing story. I, like you, would love to see the UIL’s official reason for disqualification. I never understand why these issues are never dealt with at the beginning: “The runner was disqualified because . . . ” Circling the wagons only makes the entity looks suspicious and/or untrustworthy. Moreover, I would love to know why the runner’s father claimed that his son was disqualified for an act of demonstrating his faith when there may be more to the story. His response to the reporter clearly shows that there may not have been a disqualification on religious expression grounds. He circles the wagons around his son, as most parents would do.

        The UIL claims that the runner was disqualified for disrespectful behavior, not his religious actions, and that there is video that shows what happened; however, the UIL has chosen not to release it yet. Reading between the lines in the news report, though, it is obvious that some sort of confrontation occurred after the runner passed the finish line, prompting the runner to respond in an allegedly disrespectful manner, leading to the disqualification. The news reports do not state what the rule is so it is difficult, if not impossible, to know whether a rule was violated or not.


        • I generally distrust governing bodies that have video, but refuse to release it.

          I also don’t recall any winner’s being DQ’ed for excessive celebration when I ran high school track, but I can remember some runners and relay teams that came in later positions that got DQ’ed for unsportsmanlike conduct born out of frustration, including a relay I was on.

          • I hate these kinds of situations. I think if this was a clear-cut incident, we would have had a definitive answer on what happened and why right away. When the charge keeps changing, I suspect that we will never know what really happened.

            Possible Scenario:
            (1) Athlete makes gesture to God
            (2) Official tells athlete he can’t do that, Separation of Church and State
            (3) Athlete tells him that doesn’t apply
            (4) Official tells him it is excessive celebration
            (5) Athlete gets mad, yells at official
            (6) Official disqualifies him for disrespectful or unsportsmanlike conduct

            Other scenarios are easily made by skipping steps 2-3, 1-3, 2-4, or 1-4. The great thing is that if you have the video of steps 1-6, you can edit it to appear to be any of the others as well.

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