Rowan University addresses cross country sports bra policy, members of track and field team speak out

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An article written by Rowan University student Gina Capone caught the attention of the school’s community and many others on Nov. 8.

Capone, a sophomore who was on the women’s cross country team last year and is listed  as a member of the track and field team this year, addressed a situation pertaining to the university suspending the women’s cross country team from wearing sports bras.

In her article, Capone states that “women running around the track in sports bras at their own practice were claimed to be distracting to the football players on the field during the same time,” drawing in a meeting between cross country coach Derick Adamson and Rowan Athletic Director Dan Gilmore that came to “the verdict of the women on the team no longer being able to run in sports bras. If that wasn’t already enough of an outrage, it was also decided the women were no longer allowed to run on the track.”

Rowan University, in response to the post that has seen coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Courier Post, NJ.com and The Press of Atlantic City, sent out two individual Rowan Announcers.

In the first sent at 12:08 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, the announcer, signed by President Ali Houshmand and approved by Vice President of University Relations, Jose Cardona, states “I ensure you that the University and our Athletics program are committed to providing the most accommodating and fair environment for all of our athletes.” It also says that the university has had “a longstanding verbal protocol that all athletes must wear shirts, even during practices. The verbal policy was adopted as a matter of keeping a level of standards throughout its men’s and women’s programs.”

According to the announcer, the result of new staff explaining the verbal policy to students had many interpreting it as a new policy.

University administration then met with the Athletics Department and “promises immediately to develop a written policy that allows women athletes to wear sports-bra tops without shirts during practices,” after noting that the administration had just become aware that the verbal policy existed.

The announcer says that Rowan Athletics “will continue to follow NCAA guidelines for uniforms during competition,” and that in the new formal policy, written in bold in the email, “there will be no restriction of sports bras without shirts as practice apparel.” 

The email concludes with saying that it is possible the verbal policy, attempting to set standards, could be misunderstood and “does not accommodate today’s training practices across sports.”

Nearly three hours later, at 3:03 p.m., another Rowan Announcer was sent out.

It says that Capone’s article misstated a longstanding athletic facility use policy and “explained in error that the Cross Country team was no longer allowed to use the track at the Rowan stadium.” The stated policy makes sure that each athletic facility is used by one team at a time.

Due to their mixed schedule that contains road work, track work and trail work, the cross country team’s practice time in the fall in football season is when the football team is done on the sports stadium.

According to the email, coach Adamson has “historically made alternate plans for the team to use Glassboro High School’s track, which is directly across the street from Rowan’s stadium.”

Recently, per the announcer, there was a situation where the cross country team went to use the high school track only to find the accessibility to it locked, bringing them to practice at the Rowan stadium while the football team was still there.

The problem at hand was discussed at an Athletic Department meeting on “a subsequent day, however, by the time the clarification of the one-team-at-a-time policy was reiterated to students, it was interpreted as though the Cross Country team was being prohibited from future use of the facility,” the announcer states. It then goes on to say that this is not the case and reassuring the policy of each athletic team having “designated schedules and ensured dedicate time.”

The second announcer finishes by saying that “there are times when athletes and teams may informally overlap in their use of a particular facility, however, the policy is one team at a time at each athletic venue.”

UPDATED ON NOV. 14:

Additional reporting done by News Editor/Amanda Palma

The Whit was able to get input from two members of the Rowan women’s track and field team in the following days after their original article posted on Nov. 9.

Senior Michelle Macauley, a co-captain of the women’s track and field team, said that both the football team and the track and field teams practicing at the same place at the same time has been a problem, even before she got involved with the team.

“For years, before I even joined the track team, it’s been a problem with the track girls being on the track at the same time as the football team when they practice,” Macauley said. “But recently it’s been an issue of the girls wearing sports bras at practice because apparently we’re a distraction to the football team because they turn around and watch us instead of paying attention to the coach and the plays.”

Macauley recalls a specific altercation that track and field coach Derick Adamson and football coach Jay Accorsi had during a practice.

“One day at practice, our coach [Derick Adamson] got into an altercation with the football coach, coach Accorsi,” Macauley said. “Basically, the football coach told him that this was the last time he was gonna see our girls out here because we shouldn’t be out here with sports bras and making so much noise; meanwhile they had the speakers blasting with loud music.”

After that practice is when Macauley said the meeting between Adamson and Athletic Director Dan Gilmore, Capone stated in her article, took place.

“So after that, Ringo [Adamson’s nickname] was really upset and he told us that he was going to try to call a meeting with all the coaches,” Macauley said. “Even before that, they tried setting up meetings and there was no progress. The Athletic Director, Gilmore, agreed to the fact that we were a distraction to the boys and it got so serious that we had to move ourselves from our track to a local high school track that is not even under Rowan’s name.”

Macauley pointed to the irony that the women aren’t allowed to wear sports bras for training and sporting purposes, meanwhile other members of Rowan teams are allowed to wear clothing that shows them as “half naked.”

“It’s just funny how they have like 25 cheerleaders and like 20 dancers who are basically half naked dancing and they have a marching band and a crowd in the stands, but somehow us doing our own workout is a distraction to them,” Macauley said.

Macauley said that the football team can move as well, instead of having the track and field and cross country teams to be the ones to up and out.

“Why can’t they remove themselves instead of trying to kick us off? They have no problem moving fields when there is thunder and lightning because there is less metal at West Campus, so when that happens they have no problem moving,” Macauley said.

Macauley also brought up the point that the team is the only sport that not only doesn’t receive proper practice gear, but no practice gear at all.

“And it’s not just football,” Macauley said. “We’re the only sport that’s not given practice wear.”

Simply put, Macauley wanted to just look at the term of “sports bra.”

“It’s in the name. Sports. Bra. So we should wear them while we’re playing sports whether a t-shirt is on top or not.”

But don’t get it twisted. It’s not like the whole football program is going after the teams for being “distracting.” In fact, it’s more of a dispute amongst the coaches rather than the players, according to Macauley.

“Some of them think it’s really stupid that it’s even a subject, but also some of them do admit that it is distracting when we’re out there,” Macauley said. “I’ve been told that when they’re at practice, they’re tired of seeing men all the time so when we’re out there they feel susceptible to turn around and look at us. I think it’s more on the coaches side.”

The team is to practice at Glassboro High School until the football team is finished with their season (it ended this past Friday), and according to senior Jeimi Chamalian, the football team has an entire other field for them that was just finished for them on West Campus, and that the football team probably isn’t focused to begin with if the women practicing are causing a distraction.

“If we were such a distraction, then they’re not focused in the first place,” Chamalian said.

Chamalian then reiterated the fact that the women aren’t given their own practice uniforms and that there isn’t a set rule saying that they are to restrict themselves from wearing or buying certain clothing.

“We do have uniforms to compete in, but it’s not like we’re getting our laundry done everyday, it’s not like we’re getting uniforms to practice in so there was no set rule saying we can’t wear certain things or that we can’t purchase certain items to wear to practice because we’re buying our own uniforms and we’re buying our own practice gear,” Chamalian said. “But the football team is given theirs and that’s what they have to wear during practice; that’s a set rule. We were never given shirts or shorts and pants and a top to practice in, so how can they say we’re not allowed to wear certain things that we purchase?”

Chamalian then gestured towards Macauley, bringing up some words that a member of the football team said to Macauley.

“You said that a football player, or whoever said, ‘you guys know what you’re doing wearing that stuff.'”

According to Macauley, this was back in September.

Chamalian didn’t see how sports bras are seen to be anything other than a piece of clothing that is used for a more comfortable workout.

“It’s not to please, or lure, or seduce any men or whoever into anything,” Chamalian said. “It’s because that’s what we’re comfortable in.”

She then recalled an instance during her freshman year where one of the coaches of the football team had to confront a member of the football team who was looking on a women’s practice.

“A scenario happened to me awhile ago, I think it was freshman year,” Chamalian said. “Where an athlete, one of the football players, was looking at us jogging and one of the coaches said ‘What are you looking at?’ and when he [the player] realized he was like ‘oh.’ Not reprimanding, not doing anything. Punish your athletes. Don’t punish someone else’s athletes because your athletes aren’t focused.”

Chamalian, like Macauley, felt that this issue falls more on the coaches first.

“You’re doing something wrong on your part if they’re [the football players] not focusing and they’re not into the game that they supposedly came to school to play, that they love to play,” Chamalian said. “We’re focused, we’re running our hearts out and they can’t focus on a game that they supposedly love.”

The Whit attempted to reach out to Gina Capone, members of the Rowan football staff, as well as players, for additional commenting but never received any type of response.

For comments/questions about this story, email sports@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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