Last week it was reported that Derrick Hayes, a high school student in Columbus, Texas, was disqualified for making a gesture of thanks to God as he crossed a track race finish line on April 27.
Now, the school district, a sports authority and even Hayes' family are denying that religious bigotry wes behind a track official’s decision to disqualify the team, notes Yahoo! News.
The University Interscholastic League of Texas (UIL) investigated the incident, examined video footage and spoke with several eyewitnesses.
According to a press release, the UIL ruled that Derrick’s team was disqualified “due to the student-athlete behaving disrespectfully, in the opinion of the local meet referee" and not “a result of the student-athlete expressing religious beliefs.”
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Apparently, a track official approached Derrick to inform him of a potential disqualification if the runner continued to point his hands above instead of straight ahead. It was Derrick's reaction and altercation with the track official that led to the disqualification.
“At no point during the discussions surrounding the disqualification at the meet was the issue of religious expression raised by any parties,” the UIL statement reads.
Columbus, Texas ISD Superintendent Robert O’Connor said the rules do not allow an excessive act of celebration, which includes raising the hands.
K.C. Hayes, Derrick’s father, suggested last week that Derrick was punished for offering up a praise to God while crossing the finish line.
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“It was a reaction,” father KC Hayes told WFAA-TV. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”
In the UIL press release, K.C. and his wife Stacey stated the opposite in the press release: “In looking back at the conclusion of the 4×100 race, we realize that Derrick could have handled the win in a different manner. It was not our intention to force the issue that our son’s religious freedom was violated. Nor do we feel that way now. After discussing this with our son, we have come to the conclusion that his religious rights were not violated.”
Derrick also denied that he was raising his hand to God in praise: “Although I am very thankful for all God has given me and blessed me with, on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Regional Track Meet in Kingsville, TX, my actions upon winning the 4×100 relay were strictly the thrill of victory.”