'I felt discriminated against.' Flag football hair policy puts middle school players on the bench

Strict rules placed on haircuts for youth football league
Students are hurt and parents are upset over a flag football league policy that they believe discriminates against minority students.
The Sunshine Christian League, a statewide league, does not allow its players to wear cornrows, twists or dreadlocks.
Now, several students have been told they can't take the field.
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Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole went to Impact Christian Academy to speak to a parent whose son is being affected by what this mom is calling a "disheartening" policy. 

The Sunshine Christian League told Amber Cottle her son could be on the team but he would not be allowed to play.

This is what led her to remove her son from the league altogether.

"It was a fun experience because it helped me with tackle, agility and my abilities,” said Tre’Jon Cottle.

That was until the sixth grader was told he was no longer allowed to play on his flag football team because of his dreadlocked hair.

"Nowadays, you can have long hair, short hair, different color hair  and still be clean and professional,” said Amber Cottle, his mother.

According to the Sunshine Christian League's bylaws, dying or coloring the tips of the hair, corn rows, twists and dreadlocks are not allowed.

“I felt discriminated against, because specifically they're talking about dreads and twists and braids. It's typical for African-American young men to have braids, twists and dreads,” Amber Cottle told Cole.​​​​​​

"Oddly enough, there's nothing in here about a kid having Mohawk hair, spiked hair. There's all kinds of style of hair that they'd allow,” said Pastor George Davis, the Founder of Impact Christian Academy.

Davis told Action News Jax they were aware of the policy, so they found an alternative  to make sure their students could play.

"And the workaround is, we bought caps for each of our students, similar to what the NFL players wear on Sunday, that allow them to cover their hair, where it would not be in violation to the rules,” Davis said.

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But then, they noticed students at other schools were not being held to the same standard.

"Our coach made the decision that our kids shouldn't be penalized. The style of their hair is different and just happens to be the same length as others,” Davis told Cole.

Davis is now pushing for a change in policy, not just for their students but for those who will come after them.

"I wouldn't want another school and another group of students and parents, coming through here and having to be treated this way, and really being told you don't fit our league, just because of your appearance,” Davis said.

Cole contacted to the Sunshine Christian League to learn if they’ve dealt with similar issues like this in the past and how they’ve handled it.

She’s still waiting to hear back.

At Impact Christian Academy, Davis told Cole a representative from the Sunshine Christian League is set to talk wtih the coach and students next week.

Their goal will be to rewrite these bylaws to prevent this type of issue from happening again.