News & Opinion

Gender bias sidelines Massachusetts girl

In golf, there’s an old adage that when things are not going well, play better and all will be fine.

Of course, not all adages are foolproof.

Take Emily Nash, a junior at Lunenburg (Mass.) High School.

Nash played in the Central Massachusetts Division 3 Golf Championship on Tuesday at Blissful Meadows Golf Course in Uxbridge, where she led her team to a fourth-place finish. She shot 3-over 75, four strokes better than anybody else.

Then the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association intervened.

Nash was competing in a boys’ event, and girls are allowed to participate only in the team portion. (The girls’ golf season is in the spring.) So, the best player that day not only did not win a trophy but did not advance to the Division 3 State Championship next week.

You can see how the MIAA’s moto of “Building the future through athletics” works, by teaching Nash that sexual discrimination can apply at any age.

It’s nothing more than that, a quasi-governmental institution keeping someone back because of her gender.

In 2017, how could this be tolerated?

Which is exactly what I asked Marilyn Slattery, the president of the MIAA. She declined to make a statement about Nash and referred me to Bill Gaine, the MIAA’s executive director. He was not available, so I spoke with Sherry Bryant, the MIAA’s associate director. 

Bryant explained that Nash, like other girls in a similar situation, has the opportunity to play for the individual girls’ title in the spring. It was a hollow and nonsensical explanation of the discrimination against Nash.

It seems that as a society, discrimination is not completely understood.

When someone emerges as the best competitor on an equal playing field, then that person should be determined to have won, regardless of gender.

The MIAA’s mission statement, which is posted on the association’s website, is comical in its hypocrisy in light of the way that Nash was treated.

According to the drivel, the MIAA provides “leadership and support for the conduct of interscholastic athletics which will enrich the educational experiences of all participants.” And, “The MIAA will promote activities that provide lifelong and life-quality learning experiences to students while enhancing their achievement of educational goals.”

In some heartless way, the MIAA has provided Nash with lifelong lessons: foremost, how to deal with being treated differently because of gender. 

A week from now, this story will have blown over and the MIAA, as well as many other bad actors in the world, will continue to discriminate.

But at some point, one would hope that the MIAA Board of Directors – which has only two women among its 20 members, according to its website – will address this fundamental issue and give the next Emily Nash the opportunity to compete freely at the highest level.

Of course, in the modern American society, in which civil discourse often seems to be nonexistent, I’m likely just whistling into the wind.

But I can hope. 

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli