• Former Panther pens letter of support for girl's basketball team

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    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Myers Park women’s basketball team won its second straight state championship on Saturday.

    The Lady Mustangs were invited to play in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals Tournament, which features some of the best teams in the country. But because of a North Carolina High School Athletic Association rule, the nationally ranked team cannot play in the tournament because it is being held in April, after the conclusion of basketball season.

    State Sen. Jeff Tarte is trying to pass legislation just for Mecklenburg County that would supercede the NCHSAA rule and allow any team invited to play in a national tournament to do so within a reasonable time after the season is over.

    Tarte has until Tuesday, the date of the appeal, to get the bill to the floor and passed. Tuesday is the deadline that tournament organizers set for teams to accept invitations.

    Former Panthers star Muhsin Muhammad sent an open letter to NCHSAA officials and the board Monday. The letter reads:

    Dear Board of Directors,

    My name is Muhsin Muhammad II. You may recognize my name from my 14-year NFL career with the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. My wife and I have 7 children that attend Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.  I have been involved with youth athletics my entire life; first as a participant and now as a major supporter of our community’s youth sports programs. The purpose of my email is to express my concerns with the recent decision to deny the Myers Park Women’s Basketball team the opportunity to participate in the Dick’s National basketball tournament.

    As a young man, youth athletics molded my work habits, gave me goals to attain and showed me the importance of working with a team. As a result of my hard work, I was able to excel as a high school student-athlete, and earn a free college education. Because of what I accomplished in high school, I was afforded an opportunity to travel to a variety of places and see a world much larger than Lansing, MI, which was my home town. Because of that exposure, my course of life would forever change.

    During college, I travelled to places and experienced parts of our country that completely reshaped my thoughts about this world that we live in. Eventually, I would travel to many foreign countries and gain a true perspective of our world economy. In 2007, I traveled to Ethiopia and Tanzania, and would eventually adopt 2 children from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I can honestly say that my Ethiopian children have changed my life more than I could ever change theirs.

    Without my early exposure to traveling that athletics afforded me, I’m certain that the lives of my Ethiopian children would be different, and in so many ways, my life would be different. I believe that these young women earned the right to travel to NYC and play in this tournament. More importantly, they deserve an opportunity see one of the country’s greatest cities and experience something that may be life changing. They may never have an opportunity like this again. Who knows what dreams and goals may be sparked during this trip? This trip could potentially inspire one of the athletes to be something they never thought they could be.

    I believe rules and policies are put in place to protect us and establish order in our society. I believe we all can agree that these same rules and policies are constantly amended when we find flaws or injustices within them. When rules and policies deter growth or result in punishment for accomplishing goals, a change needs to take place.

    In other states where the “hard stop” rule is in place, legislators are taking a hard look at the policy and considering making amendments. I think they realize that the spirit of the rule was to protect each coach’s season and draw a proverbial line between seasons, but as we know, many sport seasons overlap. This rule was not developed to penalize success and deny teams the ability to accept rewards.

    The Myers Park Women’s basketball team deserves to travel to New York and accept their invitation to play in this tournament. Their high level of play earned them this prestigious invitation. Not to mention, our city of Charlotte, our great state of North Carolina deserves to have representation at this tournament, and accept their recognition as a leader in youth athletics. I urge you to reconsider your ruling and take a hard look at the essence of this policy. It’s ok to admit that change is necessary, but once you deny them the opportunity to participate, it will be impossible to recreate this experience. Please don’t penalize them for their success. This is your opportunity to do the right thing.

    Sincerely,

    Muhsin Muhammad II


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