ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. – A Maryland all-star cheerleading team has parted ways with a coach and implemented new changes after allegations of kicking a member off the team due incident involving the team’s hair policy.
In a letter to parents, the CEO and President apologized to those impacted by the incident.
“I am heartbroken for our athletes, coaches, and entire MDT family of gyms who have been impacted by the recent allegations that have now been shared widely. I want to wholeheartedly apologize to every family affected,” the letter said.
Team leaders went on to say that the team and the coach involved in the allegations were removed from the team.
They also plan to take on new policy changes to ensure inclusivity for every member of their team effective immediately. Maryland Twisters coaches are now not allowed to comment on or take any action independently regarding appearance. Any safety issue will be “addressed privately and on an individual basis.”
The team is also staying away from required hair accessories, if anyone chooses to wear one cheerleaders will have a variety of options.
This comes after the mother of 7-year-old Ryan Brunson spoke to DC News Now about an incident involving the team’s hair policy at a competition. Brunson’s mom SaRaya Woolridge says they were given two hairstyle options. One was a ponytail, the other was a half up half down style but the hair had to be shoulder length. Woolridge decided to opt for the half up half down hairstyle for her daughter, a style she’s done before in past cheer seasons, but this was an issue for one of the coaches at this competition. She says the coach then attempted to put Ryan’s hair in a ponytail.
In an e-mail between Woolridge and the Maryland Twisters, leaders told her Brunson “has much more hair” in person compared to the photos.
“Ryan does have a lot of beautiful hair. I know in your attached photos it seems similar to the girls in the photos. However, I did see her yesterday. She has much more hair than this photo shows. It is long in real life, because it’s all one length, and the other girls have their hair cut in shorter layers. With that said, Ryan needs to have her hair in a high pony,” management said in an email to Woolridge.
Woolridge was not pleased with the response and felt the entire situation was an act of discrimination. Ultimately the conversation ended with her daughter being kicked off the team.
“Our values simply do not align. It’s best for both parties that you no longer continue at the Maryland Twisters program,” the email stated.
Woolridge took her frustrations to social media causing the team to put out this statement:
“We are saddened at the allegations of racial bias and embrace our athletes of all races, creeds, genders, and experiences. All-star cheerleading and Maryland Twisters have provided an inclusive refuge for athletes and coaches alike for 26 years. We are proud of the diversity we draw to our cheerleading family and continue to provide options for our athletes that support inclusion, including genderless uniform choices and hair policies that support all races. We are open to course correction and continued inclusion is paramount.”
In the letter to parents days after team leaders say they plan to launch a DEI committee to help make decisions regarding diversity and inclusion. The committee will include parents and a DEI facilitator will be on site for training and resources. Coaches will also go through additional training.
“While we thought we have been a program filled with diversity and inclusion, we are not perfect and truly want to do the right thing… please know our eyes and ears are wide open and we are moving as quickly as we can to implement changes that have been brought to us,” the President of the all-star team said in a letter.
We did reach out to the Maryland Twisters team after the allegations but did not get a response back.