The AHSAA Loses Its Fight Against a High School Basketball Player, Sort Of

Maori Davenport was able to finish her senior season playing for her high school basketball team, despite the objections of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA). On Wednesday, her Charles Henderson high school team was eliminated from the state playoffs, ending her high school career. Thanks to a judge's order, she was allowed to play while her case against the AHSAA was being litigated. Hours after the game ended, the case was dismissed and the story seemed to be at an end; except that the AHSAA doesn't seem ready to let it go.

You may remember Maori's story, and the AHSAA's role in trying to keep her from playing basketball.

Maori Davenport is a senior in high school and a very good basketball player. So good, in fact, that she was selected to represent Team USA in a basketball tournament in Mexico. That's where her problems started. Because after that tournament, someone at Team USA accidentally sent her a stipend check -- $857 that almost certainly didn't cover all her expenses. Still, that money violated AHSAA's rules on amateurism, and they suspended her for a season.That penalty would have ended her high school career.

Davenport never asked for the money, nor was Team USA supposed to send it to her. It was a clerical error, pure and simple. Someone at Team USA forgot to check with the AHSAA before sending out any money. But the money was returned, and that should have been that -- except that it wasn't.

Jay Bilas of ESPN wrote a scathing piece about the AHSAA's intransigence, bring national attention to the story in the process. Davenport was supported by the WNBA, along with NBA superstars DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile's own!) and Chris Paul, and countless others who could clearly see how ridiculous this was. Republicans in the Alabama Legislature unanimously supported her efforts to be reinstated, But the AHSAA said the rules are the rules, and even though the clerical error was corrected, it would not prevent them from keeping a high school girl off the basketball court.

High School Basketball Player Won't Play, Thanks to AHSAA
High School Basketball Player Won't Play, Thanks to AHSAA
The AHSAA would rather be right, than do right by a teenager. Why Maori Davenport won't be allowed to play her senior year of basketball.

Being reasonable with the AHSAA was getting Maori nowhere quickly, so a lawsuit was filed to see if a court could do what the AHSAA wouldn't. Pike County Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan was given the case, and his first action was to let Maori Davenport play pending the outcome of litigation. This ruling turned out to be the best possible outcome. Because even if the AHSAA was eventually found to be correct on the legal aspects of the case, we've all seen how long court proceedings can take. A delay here, a delay there, and suddenly the season is over. That's essentially what happened.

There were the inevitable delays, but a hearing was finally scheduled for tomorrow. If the case went forward, there would be arguments next week and the judge would likely render a verdict even later. By that time, Maori could have played in the state finals. After Wednesday's loss, the attorney for Maori's mother asked the judge to dismiss their own lawsuit. They had nothing left to fight for and no further reason to incur legal expenses. If the AHSAA still wanted to suspend her from playing for a year, they could go right ahead. Maori was done playing anyway. Next stop, Rutgers.

 

This should be the end of the story, and maybe it will be. But the AHSAA power brokers aren't happy about how it ended. In a statement to al.com, their attorney wrote:

"We received a Motion to Dismiss filed by Plaintiff’s attorney today. Before we had an opportunity to file an objection, an Order was entered by the Court dismissing this case. We did not consent to the dismissal. The Association will discuss its options at its next scheduled Board meeting.”

Wait a minute, they are upset because a lawsuit against them was dismissed? Most defendants would be happy, even ecstatic, when a plaintiff files for dismissal. Apparently, not AHSAA. They seem unable to get over this, and I'm at a loss to explain why.

In any event, good for Maori Davenport. She did nothing wrong and was finally allowed to play, even if her suspension was never litigated. She seems to be a great kid with a bright future ahead of her, and maybe we'll even see her playing professionally in the WNBA. If a judge allowing her to play really bothers the people at AHSAA, maybe they need to take a hard look at themselves and ask why they're so bitter. And then let it go.

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