A Black mother is exposing a Maryland cheer coach for discriminating against her daughter, who the mom says was booted from not only her competition but her team following a conflict over her hair.
In a lengthy X thread, SaRaya Woolridge shared an upsetting encounter she and her 7-year-old daughter Ryan had with the Maryland Twisters cheerleading squad. In a series of screenshots, she shared the email she received outlining the competition uniform. The girls were given two options for hair: a high ponytail with curls (or natural curls) and a half up/half down ponytail also with curls. Woolridge shared the reference pictures featuring natural Black curly hair and on other side, images of Ryan’s hair looked like on competition day.
Ryan appears to meet the criteria. However, Woolridge wrote that the coach, who she identified as Shelly Ringgold, approached her the morning of the competition saying her daughter’s hair was out of order. Woolridge said Ringgold told her Ryan’s hair was “considerably” longer than the style in the reference photos and allegedly grabbed her hair to try to pull it into a makeshift ponytail. Woolridge said she believed the issue wasn’t really her daughter’s hair but the fact she was a Black girl.
“The confidence [Ryan] walked out the door with could have been completely broken - I don’t spend all this money to send my child to an organization that allows anyone let alone coaches treat them any differently or make them feel inferior...” Woolridge wrote in a complaint to the cheer company.
In response, Woolridge received an email from Maryland Twisters President Tara Hall defending the dress code and telling Woolridge it’s best for Ryan and her daughter to no longer continue with the cheer program.
A spokesperson for the cheer company told Newsweek no athlete has ever been removed for their appearance but instead suggested Ryan’s termination from the team was because of her mother.
Woolridge’s X thread gathered support from other cheer moms as well as one Maryland Twister veteran who offered pictures of her competition hair to support Ryan. It’s unclear if Woolridge plans to take legal action but something tells me she ain’t backin’ down yet.