The All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, B.C., is facing backlash after telling a 19-year-old he can't play with his preferred team due to residency issues.
Perry Terrell played with the Prince Rupert Synergy Storm last year, but has been told he doesn't qualify for the team this year because he spent time living with his father in the village of Kincolith.
"Perry has been couch-surfing," said coach Judy Carlick-Pearson. "Therefore he didn't have a permanent address for a couple months."
George Sampson, chair of the rules committee for the tournament, said the criteria is straightforward.
"You have to have a hydro bill, phone bill, cable bill," he said. "You can't come into town at a certain time and all of a sudden show up on the roster."
Sampson said Terrell could play for a Kincolith team.
Carlick-Pearson, however, believes Terrell is being targeted for his skill.
"He's such a great player and he's a game changer," she said. "If this were a kid that were eighth or ninth [best], it would be a non-starter."
An online petition advocating for Terrell to be allowed to play has more than 1,000 supporters and Carlick-Pearson said she's filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
This isn't the first time the tournament, which brings together Indigenous players from across British Columbia, has been the source of controversy.
In 2016, a player adopted from Haiti and raised as a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation was barred because of a "blood quantum" rule that required one-eighth "North American Indigenous ancestry/bloodlines" regardless of legal status.
The case made its way to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and, last year, the rule was retired.
Carlick-Pearson said there have also been instances of "ringers" coming in from other cities just to take part in the tournament.
"There are cases where they'll overlook it and there's cases where they'll headhunt," she said. "It's ad-hoc."
Carlick-Pearson said her biggest concern is that Terrell be allowed to play with the teammates he grew up with.
Now 19, Terrell attended high school in Prince Rupert and said he's considered it home since he was 14.
"We're all great friends. We hang out all the time," Terrell said of his teammates. "I don't know. I'm [at] a loss for words right now."
Terrell said he doesn't understand why he was allowed to play last year and not this year.
Sampson said Terrell would be allowed to play with a team from Kincolith, but his living situation disqualifies him from being on a Prince Rupert team.
"That's the rules," Sampson said. "We are to enforce what has been put there and those guidelines stated that under the rules he did not fit under residency."
The tournament begins Monday and lasts through Feb. 17.
With files from George Baker