Track team’s sports bra fight creates momentum for dress code equality

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Thirteen members of the Albany (N.Y.) High School girls’ track team were suspended in May after wearing sports bras during practice.

Seven months later, their fight for dress code equality has reverberated in their own school and well beyond.

“I’m proud to say at school I definitely see a difference in the dress code. I see a lot of people wearing different styles of hair and clothing,” said Jordan Johnson, one of the athletes involved. “I’ve definitely seen a lot of changes.”

Johnson and her teammates wore sports bras during a May practice due to a heat wave pressing down on the city, the Albany Times Union reported. On the same day, members of the boys’ team were practicing without shirts.

The Albany High athletic director told the girls’ team that sports bras were inappropriate and distracting to their male coaches, multiple members of the team told the Washington Post. After team members protested the school’s dress code, they were suspended and missed a key competition.

In the aftermath, the athletes started a petition on to “protest the gender-biased dress code.” The petition garnered 51,507 signatures and their fight for change received national attention.

“All of a sudden, people were coming together about this. We got a lot of media attention,” Kayla Huba told the Albany Times Union. “I thought there was going to be a lot more opposition to this … but family and friends were the first to step up and be like, this is not cool. They were very, very supportive and told us to keep going.”

The team also received support from the ACLU and its state-level affiliate, the New York Civil Liberties Union.

By July, the Albany school board approved a new dress code — one that allows athletes to wear sports bras.

This fall, Huba appeared with ACLU attorney Linda Morris on a podcast episode titled “How to Fight Your School’s Sexist Dress Code,” as the members of the Albany track team look to support other teams facing similar battles.

The track team also has seen the impact they have had in their own school community.

“I know that I’ve seen a lot of athletes with sports bras on, like cheerleading and not just track,” Johnson said. “It was just really good to see.”