California's Narbonne High School will sit out the state tournament after failing to get approval for different uniforms

By Tim Nudd
March 03, 2015 12:30 PM
Thomas R. Cordova-Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram

No good deed goes unpunished?

The girls’ basketball team at Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California, must be thinking just that after being disqualified from the playoffs for wearing breast cancer awareness colors on their uniforms – against league rules.

Narbonne beat View Park 57-52 on Saturday, but must forfeit that win – and will be barred from the entire state playoffs – after not seeking prior approval for the pink lettering on their jerseys, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“Breast cancer awareness is in October, and there’s a process for [the school] to request color change,” league commissioner John Aguirre said. “If they’re going to blatantly disregard these rules and regulations, they’re going to affect kids.”

The Times reports Narbonne’s earlier violation of league rules played a role in the recent decision. According to the paper, the team illegally allowed a player to participate in last year’s state playoffs after she received two technicals in a previous game and should have sat out.

Even so, Narbonne’s coach and principal both said they are heartbroken.

“Everybody’s baffled. It just doesn’t make sense,” coach Victoria Sanders tells the Daily Breeze. “If you’re going to punish someone, punish me. I’ll take it. Tell me I can’t coach the game, but don’t take it away from the girls.”

Narbonne principal Gerald Kobata called the ruling “a huge disappointment” for the girls in a statement released to the Times.

“We were unaware that honoring cancer victims with uniforms was against California Interscholastic Federation rules,” he added. “I feel badly for the students – especially the seniors – their families and the Narbonne community. Though bound by the decision, I want to make sure this never happens again here.”

The players, too, were clearly stunned by the news.

“At first I thought it was a joke, but it’s completely devastating to have it end like this,” Narbonne All-City guard Latecia Smith told the Daily Breeze. “The punishment seems so harsh when it’s not the players’ fault. If we had known, we would have never disregarded the rules.”

Complicating the situation even further is the fact that Narbonne reportedly wore the same uniforms in its previous game and wasn’t sanctioned.

“I was outraged when I heard the news,” Chris Cuaron, the father of senior Nneka Anyaoha, told the Breeze. “As I got a chance to read the rule, I understood what it said. But what angered me even more is they allowed the girls to play in those uniforms in the first game. The officials had the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, you guys can’t wear that,’ and they never did.”