Women gridders support girl's fight

Posted: October 08, 2004

Although 12-year-old Ashley Brown, a sixth grader at St. Laurence School, is being denied a chance to play football for the school's Catholic Youth Organization team, she has generated support from several players in the Women's Professional Football League.

Brown received her biggest boost from the Delaware Griffins, the Wilmington entry in the WPFL. The Griffins helped Brown celebrate her 12th birthday on Saturday by making her an honorary member of the team and inviting her to participate in the coin toss for the Griffins' game against the Toledo Reign at A.I. DuPont High School.

Brown watched the Griffins romp over the Reign, 52-28, for their sixth win in seven games.

"Ashley has shown great determination in making her dream of playing football come true. We are excited to help in any way we can," said Megan McGinness, a defensive lineman for the Griffins.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese Office of Youth and Young Adult Services, which oversees the CYO athletic programs, has a ban on girls playing football.

In a statement made last month, the office said it was a safety issue in denying Brown the opportunity to play. Brown, at 5-foot-4, 150 pounds, is taller by four inches and outweighs by 30 pounds her brother Ken, who is in seventh grade and plays for the school's varsity team.

Ashley Brown wanted to play for the junior varsity at St. Laurence.

Donna Marie Farrell, who plays for the New York Dazzles in the WPFL, said she understood how Brown felt.

"As a Catholic and an athlete, I'm stunned, insulted and appalled at the opposition," she wrote in an e-mail to The Inquirer. "When I was her age, I was denied the opportunity to play for my brother's team. Like Ashley, I was bigger than my brother, but I wasn't allowed to play. I was allowed to be a cheerleader but not a football player. You would think that after 24-plus years times would have changed."

Heather Cunningham, who plays for the WPFL's Long Beach Aftershock, echoed that.

"If Brown wants to play, how can there be a rule against that?" she asked.

"Ashley should be given an opportunity to play while she can be competitive with the boys," wrote a mother of a daughter who plays sports in an e-mail to The Inquirer.

Two e-mails to The Inquirer opposing Brown playing for the football team did not raise the issue of safety.

"I guess the problem I have any more with girls wanting to play with boys' sports teams and boys wanting to play with girls' sports teams is: aren't children content today to be what God created them?" wrote one writer.

Another wrote, "Too many people today are demanding rights. If this girl wanted to snort cocaine, should she be allowed to just because she wanted to? Allow only girls on girls' teams and only boys on boys' teams."

Media attorney Jon Auritt, who has represented Brown in her bid to play, sent a second letter Monday to Tim Coyne, the attorney for the archdiocese. In his letter, Auritt asked for the "applicable bylaws, rules, regulations and/or appeal process for the organization and/or league that Ashley has been unsuccessfully seeking to play in."

Auritt said he received a phone call yesterday from Coyne saying that the archdiocese would not change its position forbidding Brown to play.

Contact suburban staff writer

Don Beideman at 610-701-7613

or dbeideman@phillynews.com.

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