Earlier reports of Texas relay runner being disqualified after pointing his finger to the sky when crossing the finish line was reported as inaccurate by Yahoo! Sports.
The University Interscholastic League of Texas, after an investigation, concluded that religion played no role in the disqualification of Derrick Hayes and his three teammates. The decision “was due to the student-athlete behaving disrespectfully, in the opinion of the local meet referee,” according to statement from the UIL.
Jamey Harrison, deputy director of the UIL, told Yahoo! Sports on Monday that he has seen the video of the race and spoken multiple times with the runner, Derrick Hayes of Columbus High School.
“The headlines are suggesting the man was disqualified because of an act of faith,” Harrison told Yahoo! Sports. “That is inaccurate.”
Hayes’ father, KC Hayes, told a Texas-based television station, “You cross a finish line and you’ve accomplished a goal and within seconds it’s gone. 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?”
Following KC Hayes’ statement, over 20,000 people commented on Yahoo! Sports on the referee’s call and said it was a deaf tone call or a clear violation of religious freedom.
However, Harrison told Yahoo! Sports that Hayes crossed the finish line and pointed not above his head but straight out in front of him. That brought a red flag from track official. Hayes and the official then had a verbal exchange, and the runner was disqualified.
“Although I am very thankful for all God has given me and blessed me with … my actions upon winning the 4x100 relay were strictly the thrill of victory,” Derrick Hayes said in a statement released by the UIL, according to Yahoo! Sports. “With this being said, I do not feel my religious rights or freedoms were violated.”
Harrison said, “This is Texas. It is quite OK to thank our Father. If this young man was disqualified for religious reasons, we would have had a problem. That is not the case.”
Moreover, the judge who made the call is a 30-year veteran of the sport and is a “good, Christian man.”
“He would never disqualify for an act of faith,” he said. “I have met him, I have talked to several people who know him. In the opinion of the official, [Hayes] was in violation of track rules. We don’t have a mechanism for overturning that.”