High Schooler Disqualified for Bible Verse?
On November 7th at the Georgia 5-A cross country state championship the third place winner, John Green was stripped of his victory just moments after crossing the finish line. He was disqualified for wearing a headband—one adorned with Isaiah 40:30-31.
John had worn this same headband since the beginning of the 2015 season and was never told to take if off. Just before the state championship race began Green and others were inspected by an official and deemed compliant with the rules. Moments later another official asked to inspect his headband and requested that he flip the headband inside out and the runner complied with the request. Later a third person possessing no credentials asked him to remove his headband, but his coaches believed that removing the headband would pose a threat to Green’s safety; Green has long hair and removing the headband in a competitive race could be dangerous for him. Since two credentialed officials allowed for the headband and different times, he was cleared to run the race with the headband turned inside out, concealing the bible verse. Though Green passed the finish line in third place, he later found out he placed 226th out of 226 race participants. This story is gaining attention in major media outlets with Todd Starnes commenting on it over at Fox news.
When head coach Clayton Tillery inquired as to the cause of the ruling he was told it was a “uniform violation.” When he asked to see the GHSA handbook where the rule is located, he was dismissed. In the GSHA handbook on page 4 it states, “Beanies, toboggans, ear covers are permitted if of a single color, unadorned (one logo only).” There is no mention of headbands. Perhaps the ruling came as a result of interpreting the Scripture as a logo? This is all still speculative at this point as the GHSA has yet to clarify the reason for Green’s disqualification. Further, if the issue was the text being interpreted as a logo, there were other racers that had verses on their headbands as well. This makes one wonder just what the officials disqualified him for and whether or not they upheld their interpretation of the GHSA handbook uniformly—at this point it seems apparent they didn’t. If the officials were confident in their interpretation of the GHSA handbook, then why not cite with precision the reason for disqualifying Green. It seems to me the uncertainty and stubbornness of the officials speak volumes. Whether officials perceived the verse as a logo or offensive, the officials need to give Green and his Coach a better explanation. Despite his disqualification, Green was still named to the Atlanta Track Club All-Metro team. Whether this is an example of it or not, intolerance towards Christianity is growing in America at an alarming rate. That being said, I’ll close with the words of the Apostle Peter, “. . . sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Pe 3:15.