Columbus (Texas) High Mighty Cardinals track runner, Derrick Hayes, recently had something to give thanks for. As the anchor of his team’s 4×100-meter relay squad, he crossed the finished line in record time. After his win, he pointed to the sky, signifying that he was giving thanks to God. But it was this act of faith gesture that got his team disqualified. Once officials at the Columbus meet determined that Hayes had violated the excessive celebration rules, the entire 4×100-meter squad was disqualified and effectively barred from the state championships. The team will not get another chance to qualify for the meet.
“It was a reaction,” father KC Hayes said. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”
Columbus ISD Superintendent Robert O’Connor said the team had won the race by seven yards. It was their fastest race of the year.
Though O’Connor cannot say why the student pointed, he says it was against the rules that govern high school sports. The rules state there can be no excessive act of celebration, which includes raising the hands.
“I don’t think that the situation was technically a terrible scenario as far as his action, but the action did violate the context of the rule,” Supt. O’Connor said.
But critics, including the runner’s father, see it as a violation of religious freedom. Some of them have even complained to the state, which does not appear to be budging.
“You cross a finish line and you’ve accomplished a goal and within seconds it’s gone,” KC Hayes said. “To see four kids, you know, what does that tell them about the rest of their lives? You’re going to do what’s right, work extra hard, and have it ripped away from you?”
Critics of the ruling say that it violates the right to freedom of religious expression.
What’s your opinion? Should the gesture deemed an “excessive act of celebration”?