Opp forfeits playoff spot

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

OPP - The Opp Bobcats forfeited the Class 4A, Area 3 Tournament Championship Game to Bullock County on Saturday. The forfeit came after a player was told he could not play or travel to the game with the team due to the violation of a team rule.

Opp High School Principal Ruth Walker could not release any details regarding the forfeiture due to privacy laws. Walker said she could not release the name of the student disciplined due to privacy laws. She also would not confirm or deny which student was disciplined and which rule or rules were broken.

The parent of an Opp player, however, discussed her son's role in the situation and gave permission for her name and her son's name to be used.

Opp's forfeit also resulted in the Bobcats' season coming to an end. The Bobcats had qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in 12 years, but will now be replaced by the Geneva Panthers in the playoffs. (See related story, Page 6)

A member of the Opp basketball team said point guard Tyrell Hunter was told he could not play or travel to Union Springs with the team because of his hair.

"They told him he could not play with dreadlocks," the player said. "She (Opp Principal Ruth Walker) said he couldn't play and then she came over there and said he couldn't ride on the bus with us to go watch us play.

"Myself and the rest of us thought it wasn't right," he added. "We decided if he could not go we were not going to play. We just took a stand for our team. Our team is our family."

Once the decision was made, he said the players were told to go home because the season was over.

A player's hairstyle was not the reason for the disciplinary action, according to Walker.

"I will assure you it was not over a hairstyle," Walker said Monday. "It was a disciplinary action that caused us not to play."

Walker said she could not discuss specifics.

"We had to take disciplinary action against a child because of a series of disobedience in the past week," Walker said in a telephone interview Monday. "It wasn't one thing, it was a number of things.

"He had until Saturday to correct some of his behaviors and he didn't do that," she explained.

Carolyn Hunter, Tyrell Hunter's mother, and Walker disagree about why he was not allowed to play.

"Mrs. Walker told him he could not play with dreadlocks," Carolyn Hunter said. "This all comes down to a hairstyle."

She said her son was allegedly in violation of a rule or a part of the dress code that states each player has to be dressed appropriately and have neat hair.

Carolyn Hunter does not see anything wrong with her son's hair.

"I told them that was a black hairstyle and to us it is neat," Carolyn Hunter said.

Walker said a student's hairstyle was not a factor in why the game was forfeited.

Carolyn Hunter said her son is not a troublemaker, despite having been disciplined more than once this year.

"They made it look like my son has been in a lot of trouble with the team and that's not true," Carolyn Hunter said.

She admited that her son was "kicked off" the team for disobeying Opp Head Coach Michael Cassady in a game against Samson last Tuesday. She said her son apologized to Cassady and the team on Wednesday and was voted back onto the team and played against Geneva on Thursday.

Tyrell Hunter said Cassady told him Friday that he had to do something about his hair before Saturday's game against Bullock County.

"He told me I had to do something with it," Tyrell Hunter said. "I told him it would be difficult to get it braided because people don't braid hair everyday.

"On Friday, I called around and couldn't find anyone to braid it," he added.

Walker said only three players boarded the bus after the disciplinary decision was made and it was time for the team to depart for Bullock County. Three players left the Bobcats without enough players to begin a basketball game. Walker said Bullock County was contacted as soon as possible once it was realized the Bobcats would have to forfeit the game due to a lack of players.