On Friday night, the 11 players on St. John's 5th grade basketball team in Clark, New Jersey, had a choice to make: Play without the team's two girls or forfeit their entire season, with two games left. The vote was 11-0 in favor of keeping the team together, NJ Advance Media's Jessica Remo reported Sunday, even after team parents reminded them of the stakes. "It doesn't matter," one of the boys replied; the team began to chant "Unity!" and some parents cried. The game did not happen, because the refs said they had been instructed by CYO league director Rich Donovan not to officiate if the girls were going to play.
Donovan had warned the St. John's team two weeks earlier, after someone complained about girls on the team following a game at St. Theresa's, another Catholic school in Kenilworth. Parents say Donovan also wiped the St. John's team record because the girls had played in previous games.
St. Theresa's is being sued by a 7th grade female student who wants to play on the boy's team because there aren't enough interested girls to form a team. Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark archdiocese, said league rules state that teams not be coed and St. John's athletic director had admitted he messed up in letting the mixed-gender team play for four years. Newark's new archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, originally sided with the St. John's parents but then, according to Goodness, the vicar general stepped in and raised legal objections. The league rules, Remo reports, don't appear to specify whether the JV black league that the St. John's 5th graders play in can be coed or not.
On Friday, the St. John's team split into two and played anyway.