AP

Girls’ football lawsuit to gauge interest in school teams

Apr 28, 2019, 9:55 AM
Female football player Sam Gordon walks the red carpet ahead of the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The question of how many girls would play football for an all-female high school team if given the chance took center stage Friday in a Utah lawsuit filed by a teenage female football star.

More than 400 girls have joined a league that 16-year-old Sam Gordon helped create, more than enough to get started in schools, lawyer Loren Washburn said. “The school district has an obligation to meet student demand,” he said.

The districts, though, argue it’s tough to gauge whether there’s enough interest around the state to create a roster of competing teams for something completely new.

“There are no other high-school girls’ tackle football teams,” said Rachel Terry, an assistant Utah attorney general.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead ordered the two sides to negotiate the language of a survey to measure interest. That’s a key question under Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds.

Football is particularly important because it’s such a beloved American sport, said father Brent Gordon, an attorney.

“If they had the ability to play football at the high school on Friday nights, with the band there and have everybody fill the stands, how do you think the perception of girls would be on that campus?” he said.

Gordon became a well-known figure after a video of the then 9-year-old girl’s dominant football skills against boys gained widespread attention online in 2012. She, her father and other girls who wanted to play football filed a lawsuit against the three districts and the Utah High School Activities Association five years later.

Gordon appeared alongside past and present NFL greats in a television ad that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. She was also honored by the NFL during Super Bowl weekend with the first ”Game Changer” award for her role in creating the girls tackle football league in Utah.

She and her father point to all-girl “powder-puff” football games that are a homecoming tradition at many high schools. The games attract more competitors than other intramural sports, and yearbook entries reflect the pride girls take in having a chance to play, Washburn said.

Those are typically limited to one game, though, and aren’t usually full-contact, so it’s unclear whether the same numbers would turn out for tackle football, said Mark Van Wagoner, a lawyer for the high school activities association.

Utah does allow girls to play on boys’ football teams, but Sam Gordon said it wouldn’t be safe for her to play against the much-larger male players. Title IX, meanwhile, has a provision for separate teams in contact sports, Washburn said.

The plaintiffs scored a victory last year when a judge allowed girls interested in playing to band together in a class-action claim.

The Canyons School District, one of the defendants in the case, said their schools support both male and female student athletes.

“There are substantial opportunities for all our student athletes to excel on the playing field,” as well as the classroom, said spokesman Jeff Haney in a statement.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

A female bison and calf are seen near the Yellowstone River in Wyoming's Hayden Valley, on Wednesda...
Mark Jones

2nd visitor in 3 days gored by Yellowstone National Park bison

In less than a week, two visitors to Yellowstone National Park have been gored by bison. Park officials say to stay at least 25 yards away from a bison.
2 days ago
Travelers wait in for a TSA security check at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles,...
DAVID KOENIG ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

TSA is reporting crowds of pre-pandemic size are traveling this Independence Day.
2 days ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
2 days ago
Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the oath for the Supreme Court....
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court's 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
3 days ago
The Supreme Court is pictured. The court just limited the EPA...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
3 days ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Girls’ football lawsuit to gauge interest in school teams